GROESBECK — Rebekah Nolte entered the game apprehensive.

Despite coming off the best regular season in program history, earning a district championship and being state-ranked, Gatesville began its first playoff run since 2014 lacking a critical element — experience.

Although the Hornets starting guard was certain her team was talented enough to defeat Palestine in the Class 4A bi-district round, she could not ignore the obvious.

“I’m not going to lie,” Nolte said, “I was really nervous about how the team would react.

“I knew most of us had never been in the playoff game, and it is definitely a different atmosphere.”

All doubts were quickly erased, though.

No. 18 Gatesville jumped out to an 11-2 lead and never eased up, cruising

to a 50-24 victory, and after the win, Hornets head coach Chris Carroll admitted Nolte was not the only one feeling uneasy before tipoff.

“Our lack of playoff experience was a big question mark,” he said, “but we talked before the game about how we’d played in three tournaments this year, and I told them, ‘This is the fourth tournament.’

“We know this is not like the other tournaments, but we wanted to treat it that way and take it one game at a time. Tonight, we took care of business.”

Palestine (14-18) recorded the contest’s opening basket, but Gatesville controlled the remainder of the game.

Nolte, a junior guard, and teammate Allaira Jones combined to score 14 of the Hornets’ first-quarter points, helping create a 16-4 advantage to start the second period.

The Ladycats found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter, pulling within eight points, 25-17, with less than three minutes remaining in the half, but they would not get any closer.

Gatesville (31-3) tallied four unanswered points to end the first half and opened the third quarter with a 7-1 run en route to allowing just seven points in the half, with four points coming in the final two minutes of regulation.

“It is so much easier when you can play well in the first three or four minutes of a quarter or a half,” Carroll said, “and I feel we did that.

“I don’t feel like we ever relaxed, and I think our defensive pressure dictated what we wanted to do.”

Nolte finished with a game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers, while Jones had 12 points and six rebounds for Gatesville.

Additionally, teammates Maci Matthews, a sophomore, and senior Corie Tunnell contributed five points apiece.

Now, the Hornets turn their attention to the area round, where they meet the La Grange-Burnet winner either Thursday, Friday or Saturday. La Grange and Burnet play today at Pflugerville Hendrickson High School at 6 p.m.

Regardless of which team advances, Nolte believes the Hornets will be ready.

“We can’t really worry about who wins,” she said. “We’re just going to keep going to practice, keep shooting, keep running through our plays and stay focused.

“It doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve just got to stick to our gameplan.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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