By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - It was Copperas Cove's game.
They just didn't win it.
The Bulldawgs forced District 12-5A leader A&M Consolidated to play its brand of basketball Tuesday, but couldn't overcome a pair of first-half runs by the Tigers and fell 87-76 at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
"We couldn't get over the hump and we spotted them way too many points in the first half," said Copperas Cove coach Billy White. "So that hump became a bigger half because we had to cover that 14-point spot we gave them ... we needed that one more stop and one more basket to pull it out and we couldn't get it tonight."
Quinton White hit a pair of early 3-pointers and Consolidated (25-4, 9-1 12-5A) jumped up 10-2 in the first 10½ minutes.
However, Tyler Wilson drove down the lane for a hard-fought layup and then drained to free throws as Cove battled back to take the lead 18-17 at the end of the first quarter.
"They had the game in their tempo," said A&M Consolidated coach Rick German. "We have to go to work tomorrow because we can't have that. We were very fortunate that we hit some shots to keep us in the game."
Josh Stewart hit a 3 and White added a fadeaway jumper as Consolidated retook the lead 26-23, White drained his third 3 of the game from the corner as Consolidated ended the half on a 14-5 run.
"We gave them way too many easy baskets that they didn't have to work for - a lot of uncontested shots where they didn't even have to run an offense to get," White said.
Cove didn't go away, though.
Cory Scott, who led all scorers with 33 points, and Cedric Carlise hit back-to-back 3s at the start of the third quarter to cut the Consolidated down to six, 44-38.
"I knew Scott was capable of scoring," White said. "He stepped up when he had to step up."
However, Cove could not cope with Alex Caruso's counters. The senior and Texas A&M signee hit an and-one to stretch the Tigers' lead back to nine. White added another 3 and Consolidated again pushed the lead to 15.
Again the Dawgs came back.
Scott drove the length of the floor for a layup and Cove ended the third quarter on a 6-0 run.
Cove pushed the Tigers even harder in the fourth, as Deion Robinson scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer from the corner. Robinson's trey cut the lead to three.
The Dawgs never got any closer.
"I was happy with the way the guys played in the second half," White said. "But, I told them that we can't put ourselves in that situation. We have to start playing like that from the beginning."
Caruso, who had to sit the last part of the third quarter and half of the fourth quarter after picking up his fourth foul, came back and scored four straight points to stretch the Tigers' lead to 72-65.
From there on out, Cove was forced to foul. Consolidated made the most of each opportunity, hitting 11 of 12 from the line to close out Cove.
With time winding down and Cove trying desperately to hang on, Caruso stole the ball at midcourt and ended the game with a thunderous dunk.
"At the end of the third and in the fourth, they made a run on us and I had to get him back in the game and hope he wouldn't make that fifth foul," German said. "Alex is a good player ... he knows what he has to do and what plays he has to make. We were just really fortunate to get this win."