CAMERON — Gatesville’s rally fell just short.
For a majority of the Class 4A playoff opener against Madisonville, the Hornets struggled offensively, missing 21 of their 29 field-goal attempts through the first three quarters as only two players scored.
Then, Gatesville finally found its rhythm.
In the final period, five Hornets scored, and the production helped them pull within one point on three occasions, but despite the turnaround, it was not enough as the Lady Mustangs won 40-37, eliminating Gatesville from the postseason for a second consecutive season.
Madisonville held a 32-24 advantage moments into the fourth quarter, but Hornets teammates Rebekah Nolte and Marlee Ward combined for seven unanswered points.
But the Lady Mustangs responded with 4-1 run before Maci Mathews made a free throw and Nolte connected on a runner, trimming the deficit to one point, 36-35, once again.
A pair of free throws with 1 minute, 20 seconds remaining pushed Madisonville’s lead back to three points, 38-35, but the Hornets kept the contest close thanks to Alayna Washington’s basket in the paint with 59.41 seconds on the clock.
Gatesville would not score again, though, and the Lady Mustangs advanced to area round, where they will face No. 4 Navasota.
Nolte capped off her high school career with a game-high 19 points, four steals and two assists, while teammate Allaira Jones, who will play alongside Nolte at Mary Hardin-Baylor next season, finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Nolte, who struggled from behind the 3-point arc, missing 15 of 20 attempts, made the game’s opening shot — a 3-pointer — to give the Hornets an early lead, and Jones’ basket shortly after put Gatesville ahead 5-4.
But the Hornets would not hold another lead.
Madisonville used a 19-8 outburst bridging from the first to the third quarter to take control, and the Hornets could not completely bounce back.
Gatesville (22-10) entered the playoffs on a five-game winning streak, finishing second in District 17-4A with a record of 9-3.