GATESVILLE — It started four years ago with a simple question.
On the heels of a disappointing season, during a parent meeting, an inquiry was posed to Gatesville head coach Chris Carroll that altered the program’s trajectory.
“Some of the parents were asking why we can’t compete like some of the other area teams,” he recalled. “I just told them, ‘We can’t compete because we are not good enough.’”
In order to contend with neighboring schools like Waco La Vega and China Spring, Carroll knew it would take his players dedicating themselves to the game like never before. To be successful, the Hornets had to commit themselves to basketball year-round instead of merely during the months comprising the season.
The team responded.
With a renewed devotion, Gatesville forged itself into a state-ranked program, entering its first postseason since 2014 situated 18th in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 4A poll. Additionally, the Hornets are coming off the first 30-win regular season showing in team history, receiving their first district championship trophy since 2010 on Friday.
While Gatesville is currently thriving, Carroll knows the process has been going on for years.
“This senior class was the first class that really committed to start playing year-round,” he said. “And it is really going from the top down through the entire program.
“We have a lot of kids who love basketball and are playing all year now, and it has made us better and really helped us be at the point we are now. I just hope it continues on in the future.”
Although that is the long-term goal, Carroll is currently focused on the present as the Hornets (30-3) prepare to face Palestine tonight at 8 at Groesbeck High School in their playoff opener.
The Ladycats are making their fourth consecutive postseason appearance after finishing fourth in the District 18-4A race, but Palestine’s 14-17 overall record is deceiving, according to Carroll.
“They are as athletic or more athletic than anybody we have played all year long,” he said, “including La Vega.
“They are extremely athletic, and that scares me a little bit. They are going to press, they are going to be up-tempo, and we have to be ready for that, because it is a different style than we have seen.”
With standouts like junior small forward Allaira Jones and junior point guard Rebekah Nolte and seniors Kaity Eudy, Emma Shinn and Corie Tunnell on the roster, however, Carroll believes the Hornets can exploit certain areas of Palestine’s game.
But more important than matchups, Carroll knows his players possess the proper intangibles.
“We played a lot of tight games,” he said. “We played a lot of games from behind after playing poorly, and we had to show some composure and come back.
“We had four overtime games, so the kids have experienced a lot, and it takes a lot of little things to help you win or lose games, and I hope that just doing what we do will work for us. It’s been working pretty well so far.”
CLASS 4A GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS
- Gatesville (30-3, No. 1 17-4A) vs. Palestine (15-16, No. 4 18-4A), at Groesbeck H.S., 8 p.m. today