They’re showing signs of getting it together, and despite a 15-point loss in the home opener, the Cougars have the makings of a playoff contender.

Tuesday’s 57-42 defeat at the hands of always tough Laredo Alexander, was closer than that, a 4-point game in fact early in the fourth. The Bulldogs scored the last 11 points of the game with some hit shooting from outside, something the Coogs struggled with all night.

“We needed to hit some shots from the outside, like they did, but we couldn’t get them to fall,” said Coach Rudy Garcia, whose club dropped a 7-point contest at Hanna and a 5-pointer versus La Joya before Tuesday. ‘We’re working on it, and this is a good group, if we had made some jumpers and kept better care of the ball, we could have won.”

This year’s North team has some size with 6-foot-5 Kerry Williams, who had 12 points against Alexander, and Jhared Weems, who led with 14 before fouling out with just under six minutes to go. Junior Brandon Davila grabbed seven rebounds while he and Weems were effective on defense and on the drive. Those two led a surge in the third period as North cut an 11-point lead to four by the time the fourth began.

But Alexander, which hit eight threes, was too sharp, and pestered the Coogs into three straight turnovers down the stretch as it gained ground with the lead and held the ball for much of the last three minutes.

Ball-handling should eventually be a team strength as long as the Beltran Family continues to improve. Sophomore Aaron had a pair of big blocked shots Tuesday but did not find the range offensively. Freshman Brian was impressive with nine points and five boards.

The game started in awful fashion as the Bulldogs went up 11-0 with North settling for outside shots it did not make. But Williams, who has a decent lefty touch inside, scored twice, once off a feed from the leaper Davila. North trailed 15-10 after one.

Alexander extended to a 10-point margin but again the home side fought back with Brian Beltran making three baskets. Two free throws from senior Juan Rodriguez made it just 28-25 and Alexander led at the half by five.

“We were chasing them all night and we just couldn’t catch up,” said Garcia, who praised the hustle of his team and said that the freshman Beltran showed he can play on the varsity level.

North rallied again after the ‘Dogs built a 40-29 lead in the third, with Weems penetrating well and getting to the free-throw line, where he made six of eight to lead the Coogs. At 4:36 of the game, Brian Beltran notched a two to make it 46-42, but North went scoreless the rest of the way.

NOTES: The North JV rambled for 81 points to win before the varsity game; it is a team with two 6-5 youngsters who make the future bright for the program. Key contributor Sam Cavazos sat out the varsity game with an injury.

The Coogs bounced back to win four games in a row at the Thanksgiving Classic in Mission over the weekend, as Weems won MVP of the event and Williams made the All-Tournament team.