The outcome was disappointing. The effort, however, was not.
Gatesville’s opportunity to reach the postseason for a third consecutive season came to an end Friday at Lampasas, where the Badgers pulled out a thrilling 47-45 overtime victory to earn their first playoff berth in a dozen years.
Although the result was not in their favor, after the game, Hornets head coach Thomas Winkler had no complaints.
“The kids fought, and you didn’t see any quit in them,” he said. “No matter what happened or how far they got down, they fought back. All I can ask is for them to go hard the whole time and give themselves a chance to win it, and that’s what we had — a chance.”
Regardless of the situation, Gatesville somehow managed to keep itself in the game.
After leading at the end of the first three quarters, including a 30-24 advantage entering the fourth quarter — which was the biggest cushion for either team in the game — the Hornets went cold.
Led by Shonderius Howard’s seven-point outburst in the quarter, Lampasas constructed a 37-33 lead with 27.72 seconds remaining and appeared poised to earn the victory in regulation, but Hornets senior Seth Martin, who finished with a game-high 22 points, was fouled on a 3-pointer with 18.06 seconds left on the clock and made all three free throws.
Then with less than half a second remaining, Gatesville point guard Justin Massey was fouled. The junior missed the first, but calmly made the second to force overtime with the score tied 37-37.
Massey’s poise in the hostile atmosphere impressed Lampasas head coach Rob Shivers.
“After his first one, when he shanked it, I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, it got louder,’” he said. “There is a sound in gyms when it turns almost deafening for a second. I was amazed he made the second one. He is a resilient kid to knock that one down, knowing the game is over if he misses it.”
Gatesville (13-14, 2-7 District 8-3A) scored all eight of its fourth-quarter points at the free throw line.
“You don’t see that too much, but we did what we had to do,” Winkler said. “We did what we had to do to get it into overtime.”
Lampasas (11-17, 4-5) held a four-point lead in overtime on three occasions, including going up 47-43 with 17.95 seconds remaining following a pair of successful free throws by Jeremy Hughes.
Nevertheless, the Hornets did not fold.
Massey, who finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists, found De’Quan Cross for a layup to pull within two points, 47-45, with 6.82 seconds left, and after Hughes missed two free throws just over a second later, Gatesville had one final opportunity left to extend its season, but the Hornets were unable to get a shot off.
Winkler walked away from the contest pleased with his team’s performance, though.
“I thought we played pretty well,” he said. “We executed our gameplan about as well as we could have. ... Game plan-wise, I thought the kids did a great job of executing what we asked them to do.”