HAMILTON — An abundance of turnovers helped end Gatesville’s season, but a lack of turnover could be the key to future success.

Stephenville used constant pressure to disrupt the Lady Hornets’ offensive flow, forcing 30 turnovers, including 18 in the first half, and the Honeybees were never threatened, cruising to a 60-36 victory Monday in the bi-district round of the Class 3A playoffs.

After seeing his team struggle to maintain possession of the ball on numerous occasions throughout the regular season, Gatesville head coach Chris Carroll was not surprised to see his players do so once again in the postseason.

“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,” he said. “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.”

In the first quarter alone, the Lady Hornets turned the ball over eight times, but it did not cause significant damage because Stephenville failed to make shots. As the game went on, however, the Honeybees’ accuracy improved, and after taking a 10-point advantage into halftime, a barrage of outside shots early in the third quarter quickly thrust them into complete control.

Stephenville made more field goals (23) than Gatesville attempted (21) as the Lady Hornets were never able to establish any offensive rhythm despite shooting 62 percent from the floor.

Nevertheless, with 10 players on the roster, including six underclassmen, eligible to return next season, Carroll believes his team’s future is promising.

“A lot of those kids are coming back, and we are going to miss the senior leadership we had, but we’ve got a really strong junior class and some sophomores that are going to step up and help us from an athletic standpoint,” he said. “Hopefully, when we roll it out next year, we are going to be a team that is more confident and more sure of itself.”

Gatesville (12-16) held an early 7-6 advantage, but the Honeybees scored seven unanswered points bridging the first and second quarters and never trailed again.

Lady Hornets junior post Jaiden Johnson’s basket in the paint created a two-point game, 15-13, late in the second quarter, but Stephenville used a 10-2 run to take a 25-15 advantage into halftime.

Less than a minute into the third quarter, the Honeybees increased their cushion to 15 points, 30-15, by hitting a 3-pointer and scoring off another Gatesville turnover. With 4:54 remaining in the period, Stephenville held a 38-19 lead and the rout was on.

Junior forward Brianna Poe scored a team-high 15 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, for Gatesville to go with a game-high 11 rebounds, but nobody else on the team contributed more than six points.

The loss marks the 12th consecutive season the Lady Hornets have failed to earn a postseason victory, and while next year will hold numerous new challenges as realignment transplanted Gatesville into one of the most competitive districts in the state, Carroll hopes the most recent lopsided loss will be the catalyst for great things.

“We want to get to the playoffs every year, but at Gatesville, it is going to take a culture change,” he said. “We’ve got tough kids, we’ve got kids that work hard, but we’ve just got to play more and focus on this sport. I think the kids are buying in, and the more commitment they show, the better the product will be that we put on the floor.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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