First-year Cooper girls basketball coach Arsenio Geter felt confident in his game plan heading into Tuesday’s home matchup with No. 13 Wichita Falls Rider. The only question was whether his Lady Cougars could execute it well enough to pull off the program’s biggest upset in years.
The strategy: to use junior Dazz Larkins’ leaping ability to deny Rider forward Jalynn Bristow the lob pass inside and try to contain the standout freshmen enough to force her teammates to win the game for the Lady Raiders.
The result: A 46-30 Cooper victory that saw Larkins outshine Bristow on both ends of the floor and the Lady Coogs use a 21-8 run through the fourth quarter to pull away for an impressive victory at Cougar Gym.
“We studied them quite a bit,” Geter said. “They’ve got a really good player (in Bristow), and we just made sure those lobs weren’t happening. We had a good plan with Dazz to ‘Go up there and get that ball, girl.’ She can jump out of the gym, so we used that to our advantage and kept the ball out of the post.”
Larkins, who finished with a game-high 15 points, spearheaded a dominant defensive effort for Cooper (21-8, 3-1). Rider finished the game with just 10 field goals, scoring in double figures in just one of the four quarters.
Of the Lady Raiders’ 30 points, only five came from Bristow, who scored 27 against Wylie on Jan. 10 and had a school-record 42-points earlier this season against Odessa Permian.
Her relative absence in the scorebook allowed the Lady Coogs to grind out a 19-17 halftime lead and extend that to 25-22 heading into the pivotal final quarter.
“We said if we could keep her down to 15 points or lower, we’re going to put ourselves in a great position to be successful,” Geter said. “She’s going to be great. She’s a freshman, but she’s as good a player as you’re going to get. (That’s) a well coached team, and we just tried to keep it out of her hands down low. It’s kind of impossible to do that all game; she got a couple of shots down low, but we kept her off the boards.”
While Rider struggled throughout the game offensively, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Cooper was finally able to put the Lady Raiders away. And it took one run in each of the final two periods to keep momentum away from the visitors.
After Rider pulled even with the Lady Coogs twice in the third quarter — first at 19-all and later at 21-21 — Cooper closed the period on a 4-1 run to take a three-point lead into the fourth quarter.
And a Brianna Garcia 3-pointer early in the final stanza sparked an extended push that saw CHS take a 13-point lead (42-29) by the 3:29 mark of the fourth. That proved more than enough to close out the game and hand the Lady Raiders (23-2, 2-1) their second loss of the season.
“We came in at halftime and we said, ‘Sometimes … things don’t go our way. How do we approach it?,'” Geter said. “‘We’re the only ones who can change the outcome of whatever happens. How do you react to it.’
“So we came out, kept our composure, stayed poised and didn’t turn the ball over. Taking care o the ball was a huge deal. Against a physical team like that, you’ve got to be able to keep the ball away from them and make sure you don’t put it in their hands. And we did that.”
In addition to Larkins’ big game, Cooper got 11 points from Keiana Kemp, seven from Garcia and six apiece from Meri Tetaj and Kyla Speights.
The contributions from the latter two players were especially key as those two had to share the ball-handling duties for most of the second-half while junior standout Jennika Willis saw her minutes limited by foul trouble.
“There are not very many times that Jennika Willis is on the bench, especially for a whole quarter,” Geter said. “And every girl that I needed get in that game and get on the court stepped up in that time — huge. She is arguably our top role in this game and for her to be able to sit out and us to play offensively and keep the ball in our hands, (was big).
“Without Jennika, it’s tough. But we had a lot of girls step up and take on that role.”
With the victory, the Lady Coogs are now tied with Rider for first in District 4-5A at the midway point of the league race. They’ll be off Friday before getting back on the floor Tuesday with a home game against Aledo.
Cooper lost its first meeting with the Ladycats 50-45 on Jan. 10, but it has posted three lopsided wins since.
“That’s been in the back of our head the whole time,” Geter said. “We want that game back so bad, but the only thing we can do is work on the next game, and that’s what we’ve done. The girls have been really focused and we’ve had some good practices of late, just keeping our mindset on the court to get better and start that second round 3-1.”
Rider boys run away from Cooper for 23-point win
In the latter half of Tuesday’s District 4-5A doubleheader, the Rider boys controlled play from start to finish in a 71-48 win over Cooper.
Using a trapping press in both the full- and halfcourt, the Raiders (22-4, 1-0) frustrated the Cougar guards, racing out to an 18-11 first-quarter lead and pushing that 35-22 by halftime on their way to a comfortable victory at Cougar Gym.
“We just didn’t get off to a great start,” Cooper coach Bryan Conover said. “We cut it to about 10 in the third, and then we kind of subbed and it went downhill pretty quick after that.
“But we’ve just got to get better. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching and we’ve got to do a better job of playing and just try to battle.”
Nick Darcus led a group of three Rider players in double figures, scoring a game-high 18 points, while Kellar Owens and Deshawn Jefferson each finished with 14. Jed Castles just missed double figures with eight points, followed by Jacob Rodriguez with seven and Carson Sager with six.
Cooper, meanwhile, was paced by post Kaden Davis with 12 points. Guards Noah Garcia and Josh Henry scored 10 and nine points, respectively, but neither was able to find much offensive consistency against the Raiders’ pressure.
“They’re really good, that’s the thing,” Conover said of Rider. “There’s no magic solution to anything. They’re really good on defense, they’re really good on offense, they’ve got a lot of size, they’re fast. It’s a tough match for anybody.
“They’re the favorites in the district for a reason. They didn’t lose a district game last year, and it’s going to be tough to beat them this year. But it’s a good mark to see where you’re at, and we’ve got a little ways to go still.”
The Cougars, now 8-16 overall and 3-1 in league play, will try to get back on track Tuesday, when they return to action at home against Aledo.
COOPER 46, WICHITA FALLS RIDER 30
Rider (23-2, 2-1) — Jalynn Bristow 2 1-4 5, Jaelynn White 4 1-4 10, Ashlynn Knight 1 4-6 6, Addy Self 3 2-6 8, Jill Leslie 0 0-0 0, Hanna Lawrence 0 0-0 0, Steffanie Mock 0 0-0 0, Taleyah Jones 0 0-0 0, Laechelle Wright 0 1-2 1. Totals 10 9-22 30.
Cooper (21-8, 3-1) — Brianna Garcia 2 2-2 7, Dazz Larkins 7 1-5 15, Meri Tetaj 2 0-1 6, Keiana Kemp 5 1-2 11, Jennika Willis 0 1-2 1, Kyla Speights 2 2-2 6, Ashlynn French 0 0-0 0, Kaleigha Kemp 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 7-14 46.
3-Point Goals — Rider 1 (White 1); Cooper 2 (Garcia 1, Tetaj 3). Fouled Out — Bristow, Willis. Technical Fouls — None. Total Fouls — Rider 17; Cooper 18.
WICHITA FALLS RIDER 71, COOPER 48
Rider (22-4, 1-0) — Kellar Owens 3 8-9 14, Jed Castles 3 2-3 8, Nick Darcus 6 4-5 18, Carson Sager 2 1-2 6, Deshawn Jefferson 5 4-5 14, Tre’Len Hoskin 0 0-0 0, Jacob Rodriguez 3 0-0 7, Parker Newsom 0 0-0 0, Dylan Fettkether 1 1-2 4. Totals 23 20-26 71.
Cooper (8-16, 0-2) — Josh Henry 3 2-2 9, Noah Garcia 3 2-5 10, Kaden Davis 3 6-8 12, C.J. Jemison 1 0-2 2, Ashton Curtis 1 0-0 2, Brian Spotwood 0 0-0 0, Jalen Cherry 2 2-2 8, Colin Reed 2 0-1 5, Andrew Gonzalez 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 12-20 48.
3-Point Goals — Rider 5 (Darcus 2, Sager 1, Rodriguez 1, Fettkether 1); Cooper 6 (Henry 1, Garcia 2, Cherry 2, Reed 1). Fouled Out — Jemison. Technical Fouls — None. Total Fouls — Rider 20; Cooper 20.