TEMPLE — Temple’s chance to grab a two-game lead over Copperas Cove for fourth place at the midway juncture of District 12-6A began to fizzle during the last 25 seconds of the second quarter Friday night, steadied and then fully sputtered out in the fourth, and the Tem-Cats will settle for a tie in that all-important playoff-qualifying spot as the teams make the turn.
MJ Honea and Kaysha McCloud each posted 17 points for the Lady Bulldawgs to counter a 24-point effort from Temple’s Wilashia Burleson and help Cove notch a key 61-53 victory inside raucous Wildcat Gym.
“We had an opportunity to put ourselves in a good place and we missed it,” Temple coach RaShonta LeBlanc said. “I’m not taking anything away from Cove, but it’s about playing smart. We played hard but we have to play smarter at times.”
Leah Powell added 16 points for Cove (18-7, 4-4), which went 2-0 this week to catch the Tem-Cats (17-10, 4-4), who conversely went 0-2.
Burleson was the only Temple player to reach double digits. Aniah Hall chipped in eight points, Taliyah Johnson seven and Aaliyah Thomas six.
Temple shot 44 percent from the field (20-of-45) and from free throw line (11-of-25). Cove finished 22-of-60 from the floor (36 percent) and 13-of-25 at the line (52 percent).
It was Johnson’s lone 3-pointer of the game that gave the Tem-Cats a 20-11 lead at the 4:44 mark of the second quarter, but also signaled the start of Cove’s comeback.
The Lady Bulldawgs scored 18 of the next 22 points — including a sparkling 7-0 spurt off of three Temple turnovers during the last 25 seconds — capped by Honea’s buzzer-beating 3 from a step inside half court. It hit nothing but net, gave Cove a 29-24 halftime advantage, sent the Lady Bulldawgs’ faithful into a frenzy and set the tone for a back-and-fourth second half.
“That was a big shift in momentum,” Cove coach Tiffney Barnes-Graham. “If we didn’t have that, I wouldn’t even think about what might’ve been.
“This was a very big game for us.”
It also served as prime example of LeBlanc’s earlier analysis.
“That’s where playing smarter comes in,” LeBlanc said. “We’re forcing turnovers but giving them right back. We’re forcing passes that aren’t there. So, again, it comes to us playing smarter than we did in the second quarter.”
Temple fell behind by nine, 33-24, early in the third before mounting its charge, outscoring Cove 16-9 in the period for a 40-38 lead into the fourth.
The cushion didn’t last long. Honea’s first of two fourth-quarter 3s put Cove in front, 42-40, and it didn’t trail again. Temple was within one on two occasions — 43-42 after Hall’s basket and 45-44 following a short jumper from Johnson — but couldn’t get over the hump.
“We just have to get back in the gym and get after it,” said LeBlanc, which travels Tuesday to face No. 21 Harker Heights, a 68-36 winner when the teams met Dec. 3. “We’re in a battle. It’s up to us.”
FRIDAY'S 12-6A GIRLS BASKETBALL
- Copperas Cove 61, Temple 53
- No. 21 Harker Heights 61, Shoemaker 38
- Waco 38, Killeen 26
- No. 19 Waco Midway 53, Belton 18
- BYE: Ellison
12-6A GIRLS STANDINGS
Harker Heights (7-1)
Waco Midway (7-1)
Copperas Cove (4-4)