GATESVILLE — Thomas Winkler was ecstatic about his team’s performance.
He was even happier with when it occurred.
Led by seniors Danny Byrd and Tobias Moore, Gatesville put together an all-around dominating performance against Lampasas, winning almost every statistical category as it locked up a second consecutive playoff berth with a 68-49 victory.
After the game, the Hornets head coach admitted he believed it was the best his team has played all season, especially on defense.
“I told the guys there was no weak link on the defensive end of the floor,” Winkler said. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do. We influenced (shots), we closed out, we got in the help gaps, we got backside, we were in the post, we blocked out.
“They were fighting. They had something to lose, big time. So to come out and play like that against a team whose back is against the wall (was impressive). This is our best game so far this season. I think we are peaking at just the right time.”
The Hornets (15-15, 6-3 8-3A) never trailed and were involved in only one tie early in the first quarter. Gatesville broke open a 2-2 game by scoring nine unanswered points, and never looked back.
Gatesville led 13-9 after the first quarter and 28-19 at halftime, which ballooned to 38-19 in the third quarter following Justin Massey’s 3-pointer with 5:38 remaining in the period.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Byrd and Moore combined to score 13 of the Hornets’ 20 points to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“It feels really good,” said Byrd, who scored a game-high 19 points, “but we’ve still got to take care of business. We’ve got a game Tuesday against Burnet, and they are pretty good. We’ve got to take care of business there and then worry about the playoffs later.”
The Hornets needed to win one of their final two games to secure their playoff berth, and Moore, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, was glad they did not put it off until Tuesday.
“It takes pressure off us,” Moore said. “It doesn’t put it all on that one game, so we might as well get it done tonight.”
Moore did not miss a shot from the floor, connecting on all four of his attempts, including his lone 3-pointer, and was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Byrd finished the game by making four of his final five shot attempts after missing six of his first nine shots.
“When those two guys are playing at the level they are capable of playing at, we are a tough, tough cover,” Winkler said. “Especially, when you have Justin and Seth (Martin) standing outside on the 3-point line ready to knock one down.
“When those two guys are rolling, you really need to double them, and that takes four defenders to double those two guys. It just opens up a lot of stuff for everybody else.”
Massey made a pair of 3-pointers en route to 11 points for Gatesville, while junior Martin added seven points.
The loss eliminated Lampasas from playoff contention. The Badgers (19-11, 3-6) needed to win both of their final games and have Gatesville lose out to force a third-place play-in game, but they simply could not produce any offense against the Hornets. Lampasas missed 30 of its 48 field goal attempts. Shayne Cofield and Levi Holland were the only two Badgers to post double figures, scoring 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com