WEST — Tobias Moore and Danny Byrd are good, but they are not good enough to win by themselves.
Not against a team as good as Kennedale.
Despite having its senior duo combine for 38 points, the remainder of Gatesville’s roster struggled to make shots, and it cost the Hornets their season. Outside of Moore and Byrd, who made 15 of their 26 total shots, the Hornets missed 21 of 25 field-goal attempts and lost 62-48 in the area round of the Class 3A playoffs to the No. 3 team in the state Friday.
“It makes it easier on the defense when they only have to focus on two guys,” said Moore, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “(The Wildcats) didn’t have to do much, they just focused on us two. Some days we are off and some days we are on, we were just off today.”
While Gatesville head coach Thomas Winkler admitted having more players involved offensively would have been beneficial, he was content to allow the game to rest on the should of his senior tandem.
“Obviously, if you have another scorer out there, it is going to open up the floor a little more,” the coach said, “but those are our two studs, and I decided that in the second half I was going to put the ball in their hands.”
By that point, however, it was already too late.
Kennedale jumped out to a 14-3 lead, and thanks in part to the Hornets’ 12 first-half turnovers, created a 17-point cushion, 38-21, by halftime. Gatesville (17-16 overall) trimmed the deficit to single digits one time in the second half, but never seriously threatened the Wildcats, who seemingly had an answer for every Hornets’ run.
“We’d get close and then we’d turn it over once or twice in a row,” Winkler said, “or they’d get an offensive board. That seemed to be our nemesis most of the night. It was just the pressure that they were able to apply to us.”
Kennedale advances to the regional quarterfinals, where it will play No. 16 Burkburnett, which defeated the Hornets’ district rival No. 14 Liberty Hill 76-64 on Friday.
After scoring the Hornets’ first basket of the game, Byrd, who finished with 14 points and four rebounds, did not deliver another point until the third quarter, when his consecutive field goals late in the period pulled Gatesville within nine points, 44-35, with less than 40 seconds remaining. But the Wildcats (32-2) were able to drain any momentum the Hornets produced as Kennedale guard V.J. Hughes connected on a 3-pointer off a Gatesville turnover at the buzzer, giving the Wildcats a 49-35 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Moore, who added five rebounds and five assists, opened the final quarter with a 3-pointer, but Kennedale responded with an 8-0 run to re-establish a significant advantage at 57-38.
More than half the Hornets’ field goal attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc. Gatesville made nine of 31 3-pointers en route to a 19-of-51 shooting performance overall.
“I think we had some good looks,” Winkler said. “I don’t think we were settling for 3-pointers like we have in past games. … We are pretty good shooters most of the time.”
But outside of Moore, who made five of eight 3-point attempts, the deep shots simply were not falling for the Hornets, and Kennedale took full advantage of the missed opportunities.
The Wildcats’ 6-foot-4 forward Aundre Jackson was dominant in the paint, making 10 of 15 shots to finish with 22 points and nine rebounds.
“It wasn’t that he was getting wide open,” Byrd, who often found himself guarding Jackson, said. “It was backdoor shots. You’d have to front him and then the help wasn’t coming over fast enough.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org