The Belton Tigers looked to snap a two-game District 12-6A slide on Tuesday night, as they hosted the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs.
The Tigers turned around a tight first quarter with a 17-5 second quarter run and withstood a vicious Copperas Cove rally from 16-points down in the midst of the third quarter to win the game, 58-53.
The win improved Belton’s record to 10-15 overall and 2-5 in District 12-6A play.
The loss dropped Cove to 3-4 overall and 15-11 overall.
T.J. Johnson and Kayden Downs got the Tigers out to a 5-0 lead in the opening three minutes. Quinton Ford, Isaiah Sobers and Tyrese Taylor sandwiched 10 points around a Reid Pulliam three-pointer from the right elbow of the three-point arc. Cove led after eight minutes, 10-8.
Johnson had a monster second quarter for the Tigers, as he had 12 of Belton’s 17 points in the frame. The Tigers’ defense held Cove to just five points, as Belton led at halftime, 25-15.
The Tigers opened the lead to 16 points, as Johnson, Pulliam, and Mario Lockett combined for 12 points over the first 2:47 of the second half.
Sobers and Maurice Toney led a 10-5 rally over the final 4:43 of the third quarter, as Cove cut their deficit to 11 going into the fourth quarter, 42-31.
Cove put on the full court press as soon as the fourth quarter started. Belton ended up with a ton of free-throw attempts over the final eight minutes. The Tigers led 14 points with 5:03 to play, 52-38.
The Dawgs then went on a 13-1 run over the next 4:36 to trail Belton by just two points, 53-51. Johnson, Pulliam, and Tyson Pine combined to sink five of six free-throws over the final 27 seconds to seal the win.
The Tigers went 23-of-32 at the free-throw line, including 12-of-14 in the fourth quarter.
The freshman Johnson had 25 points to lead the Tigers.
“It’s definitely a team-effort though,” Johnson said. “I don’t really concentrate on how much I score. I just want to win.”
The Tigers were able to make a solid defensive statement, holding the Dawgs to just five second-quarter points.
“We work a lot in practice on box-outs,” Johnson said. “We’re not the biggest team. So we make sure we’re in there and fighting for every rebound.”
Belton head coach Jason Fossett addressed his team during one of the timeouts in the game regarding panic.
“I told the guys that we are going to be here together a long time together,” Fossett said. “We will be in the same huddle, this year, the year after, and, in T.J.’s case, the year after. So let’s get the panic out right now and grow up some. We made two or three plays down the stretch to find a way to win it. With such a young team and out senior, Mario (Lockett) fouled out, we could have easily folded tent there. But, the guys kept fighting and stayed together. It looked grim at times, but they found a way to win.”
The Tigers will host Harker Heights on Friday night at 8 p.m.