GATESVILLE — Win every tournament it participated in. Check. Win every home contest. Check. Win 25 games. Check. Finish with at least an 8-4 record in district play. Check. The 18th-ranked Gatesville girls basketball team left no season goals unfinished this year, and when the dust settled Friday night after its regular-season finale, the Hornets even had some accomplishments that weren’t on their checklist.
Gatesville’s suffocating defense held off a stingy Lorena squad in overtime, 35-28 in a District 17-4A game, and the Hornets (30-3, 10-2) garnered the first 30-win season in the program’s history. They are also sitting atop the league standings with a bye heading into the final week of the regular season.
China Spring, which has one game remaining against Lorena on Tuesday, is 9-2 in district after beating Hillsboro on Friday. Gatesville split its two contests against the Lady Cougars, and the Hornets would earn a share of the league title with a China Spring win and hold it outright with a Lorena victory.
“It’s just crazy. There are no words to describe what we’re feeling right now,” said Gatesville junior Allaira Jones, who had a game-high 13 points, including a key bucket in overtime. “Being at the top of the district from where we’ve been in the past couple of years means so much. Just the fact that we’re going to the playoffs is amazing. The whole game our shots weren’t falling, but the way that we held our composure all the way into overtime and then to hit those last offensive shots was really good.”
Added Gatesville coach Chris Carroll: “That win gave us every goal that we set in the preseason. We won every tournament we were in. We won every home game. We wanted to win 25 games. We wanted to be 8-4 in district. We’re above and beyond everything we set. No team has ever won 30 games here. You just can’t be proud enough of them.”
The game headed into an extra period after the two teams were tied at 26 -26. Gatesville’s Kaity Eudy grabbed a rebound off a Lorena miss then sprinted just past midcourt before heaving a shot that ricocheted off the backboard and then bounced off the goal.
The Hornets went ahead quickly in overtime with a Jones jump shot followed by a Rebekah Nolte 3-pointer for a 31-26 lead at 3:31. Lorena (22-9, 6-5) never caught back up.
Eudy and Nolte, who scored all five of her points after regulation, sank four free throws to put the game away. Conversely, the Lady Leopards missed all three of their free-throw attempts in OT.
“Our kids battled,” said Lorena coach Rodney Gee, who escaped into a hallway immediately after the loss and stared at the floor. “They’re tough and get after it. We kept fighting. We just couldn’t get shots to fall, and we couldn’t get free throws to fall. I’m still proud of them. We missed every free throw in overtime. That was a big factor. We missed free throws early in the game, too, that maybe would’ve given us time to stretch (the lead) out.”
Even though Lorena pulled even with Gatesville numerous times in the second half, it could never snatch a lead. The teams were tied 13-13 at halftime, and the Hornets held a 22-21 margin after the third.
Loren’s Steelie Priest made a reverse layup to tie it at 26-26 with just under a minute left in the fourth.
Eudy finished with seven points, while Gatesville’s Corie Tunnell had six.
“We got into some serious foul trouble in the first half,” Carroll said. “I thought our kids showed a lot of maturity to be able to play with those fouls. Rebekah Nolte and Kaity Eudy I don’t think ever came off the floor in the second half, and they went into halftime with three fouls. Ashton McCraw was huge off the bench for us defensively. Emma Shinn had some big time rebounds. That’s just the kind of team this is. We’re not a two-person team.”