Gatesville’s girls basketball season came to a disappointing end Tuesday at Hamilton as Stephenville defeated the Lady Hornets 60-36 in bi-district round of the Class 3A playoffs.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Gatesville head coach Chris Carroll, who has guided the program to three postseason appearances in his four years with the school, talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittington.
Late in the second quarter, the Honeybees were able to push their lead to double-digits. What was going on during that run?
We had about four possessions in a row with turnovers, and it can snowball on you quick. I really felt going into it that if we could ever get it down and run our half-court offense, they would struggle to guard us because of our size, and they did at times.
But it comes back down to, and I don’t say this from a critical standpoint because it is just who we are and where we are as a program, but our kids are not confident enough with the ball in their hands against pressure in the full court or pressure in the half court. We missed seven or eight scoring opportunities — dead blank scoring opportunities — because we were turned away and trying to protect the ball as much as we can. But we’re not strong enough and we are not faced up, looking to see what we need to see. That comes with playing and, in our program, that is just where we are.
We had more kids playing more basketball this year, and I think that’s one reason why we got to the playoffs. We’ve taken a step, but for this program to go where we want to go, where I want our program to go, and I’ve shared this with them all year long, we’ve got to commit to it year round. That is tough at a school like Gatesville, where we’ve got kids that play a lot of different sports. That’s part of being a small 3A school in a position that we are.
We’ve got some talent, and we’ve got some kids with some ability that are coming. The future is bright here if they will buy in. We’ve got kids that are only going to get better, and we got better from the start of the season to the end of the season, but when you are playing Brownwood and Liberty Hill and Stephenville, sometimes it doesn’t show.
They have the program we want to have, and they’ve got multisport kids too, but they’ve got kids who feel basketball is really important. They’ve bought in, they are committed and they are better than us. They shoot the ball better than us, and they do some things from a physical standpoint better than we do, and it showed tonight. It hurt us.
Stephenville was really hot in the first minute or so of the third quarter. How important was that stretch for swinging the momentum in its favor?
It was big, and I mean that, but that has been the story of our year. We’ve played good teams and teams that are ranked in the top 25 to 10 or 12 or eight points at halftime, but it is such an effort and such a struggle for us through 16 minutes of basketball just to get it across half court and into our half-court sets that we kind of peter out in the third quarters.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some bad first quarters and probably each quarter, but the third quarter has really hurt us when we’ve played people close and we are kind of worn down. Then they come out and they jump on us in the third quarter and sometimes we kind of wilt.
But I’m proud of this group. They did a lot, and they faced a lot of adversity with the loss of (senior point guard) Sarah Latham and some of the other issues we’ve dealt with. It was a great group of kids. They love each other. They liked being around each other. It was the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here coaching them. You look at it, and that might sound weird because we weren’t as successful as we hoped to be, but a lot of those kids are coming back.
We are going to miss the leadership Sarah Latham provided us, and another kid like Randi Farney, but we’ve got a really strong junior class. We’ve got some sophomores that are going to step up from the JV program, and I know from an athletic standpoint they are going to help us. Our freshmen class is really strong, and we’ve got a couple of kids we are going to put in the same situation next year. We will probably play a couple kids that are freshmen next year, and they are some of the best players in our program right now because that is what they do and they do it all the time. Those kids are going to be thrown into a really tough district next year, and we are going to expect a lot of them.
We are going to take a couple weeks off and try to relax and understand what hurt us this year, and then go through the spring, summer and fall trying to work on that. Hopefully, when we roll it out next year, we are going to be a team that is more confident handling the basketball and more sure of itself when we’ve got the ball in our hands. And if it is, we are going to put ourselves in a position to win games, opposed to putting ourselves behind the eight ball every night because we did that a lot with our turnovers this year. It was not good, and I’ve got to take responsibility for my part of that and continue to work harder at getting better at it.
So can you draw positives from this playoff experience?
I hope so. We were in a very good district, and it was a credit to those kids that they were able to get into the playoffs this year. That is the first step. We want to get to the playoffs every year, but at Gatesville it is going to take a culture change.
This is the 12th year in a row we haven’t won a playoff game. This sport is not a sport you can only play three or four months out of the year and be successful at the level we’re at.
We are going from a very good district to one of the best districts in the state, so it is only going to get tougher for us. We’ve got tough kids, and we’ve got kids that work hard, but we’ve just got to play more and focus on this sport. I think some of the kids are buying in, and the more commitment they show, the better the product we are going to be able to put on the floor.