GROESBECK — The towel Gatesville coach Chris Carroll carried with him Tuesday night wasn’t white. Even if it was, throwing it in never appeared as an option — even when his team faced a 20-point deficit after an uncharacteristic first half against Madisonville in a Class 4A Region III quarterfinal.
Sure enough, the Lady Hornets made a move, dwindling the Lady Mustangs’ advantage to five 3 minutes into the fourth quarter behind the suddenly hot shooting of Rebekah Nolte and inside play of Allaira Jones.
But No. 8 Madisonville didn’t break, never trailed, and closed the contest with an 11-3 run to cap a 51-38 victory and advance to the regional tournament.
“Not very often were we down like that, but we’ve been able to come back and beat a couple really good teams with that kind of effort. I mean, that was the team that we were all year long,” Carroll said of his players’ second-half rally attempt. “But, great group, great kids, great year, I’m really proud of them and I hate that it ended tonight.”
No. 18 Gatesville’s memorable season concluded with a program-record 32 wins, a District 19-4A championship and the team’s deepest playoff run since 1996.
“I feel like we had a great season and I feel like all year it’s been about growing, maturing and coming together and not letting stuff like this take us down,” Jones said. “But I think we came out nervous and afraid in the first half, which really set us behind.”
Madisonville (28-3), which plays Diboll in the Region III semifinals, grabbed three offensive rebounds in a game-opening 9-0 run, during which Jones picked up two fouls and senior guard Kaity Eudy was on her way to being whistled three times in the quarter. They both fouled out in the fourth.
The Lady Hornets faced an 18-5 deficit going to the second, and Gatesville’s scoring wasn’t much more prevalent over the course of those 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Lady Mustangs continued to go to Tra’Dayja Smith and Lexi Leveston. The duo combined 25 first-half points in building a 31-11 lead, and Smith finished with 18 for the game while Leveston posted 12.
“The first half, I mean, it was us. We just, we got rattled. The officiating was horrible, but, I mean, you’ve got to be the aggressor,” Carroll said. “We dug ourselves a big hole and it was too big to get out of.”
Jones tallied 21, including all 10 of Gatesville’s points in the fourth, just one of those coming after her three-point play cut it to 40-35 with 5:53 to play. It was mostly Madisonville from there. Notle added 12 points on four 3s in the third, but no other Gatesville player had more than two points.
“After halftime, we were just thinking we had a chance. We had 16 more minutes and another chance to give it all we had,” Jones said. “We just didn’t have enough at the end.”