GATESVILLE — Since Kaity Eudy has been in high school, Gatesville had never beaten Waco La Vega — until Tuesday night.
The ninth-ranked Hornets needed a massive comeback to do so.
They trailed 26-6 late in the second quarter, but behind a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds from junior Allaira Jones, the Hornets thundered back into the ballgame and eventually topped the Lady Pirates 44-37.
The win was worth the wait for Eudy.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” the senior guard said. “That was one of our goals that we made at the beginning of the year — to win every district home game and beat La Vega. They were the top pick (to win district), and it’s just a great experience to finally beat them and make a name for ourselves.”
Gatesville (23-1, 3-0 District 17-4A) certainly did that and proved they can no longer be looked past.
“We had a message to send to everyone else in district,” Jones said. “If we lose, it’s just someone else that lost to La Vega. But if we win, that tells them to look out for us.”
The Hornets scored the final four points of the first half on two free throws by junior Rebekah Nolte and a putback at the buzzer by sophomore Maci Mathews.
They then blistered the Lady Pirates (6-11, 2-1) with a 17-0 third quarter to take a 27-26 lead into the fourth. Jones spearheaded the explosion with 11 points.
Gatesville then scored the first four points of the final period, as Nolte and freshman Alayna Washington made two free throws apiece.
A driving layup by La Vega senior Shekenia Green finally halted the Hornets’ outburst, and the two teams went back and forth until the one-minute, 31-second mark.
Down 38-35, the Lady Pirates were forced to foul to give themselves a chance. But Nolte sank six free throws down the stretch for Gatesville to ensure the triumph.
The Hornets were 23 of 25 as a team from the free-throw line.
Gatesville struggled in the first half offensively with nine turnovers that contributed to its big early deficit, but turned the ball over just three times in the latter half of the contest.
“Before the game, we came out nervous,” Jones said. “We were just throwing the ball everywhere and letting them have it — just giving it to them. We were down 26-6 and everyone was losing hope, but as the game went on, we came out and played much better in the second half.”
Gatesville also had difficulty handling La Vega junior Ta’naiya Norwood in the first half, when she tallied 13 of her team-high 16 points.
But the Hornets severely clamped down defensively on Norwood and the Lady Pirates the rest of the way, and Gatesville head coach Chris Carroll said it was a testament to the entire team.
“We did not play well at all in the first half, and give a lot of credit to La Vega,” Carroll said. “One of our preseason goals was to be the most competitive, aggressive and hard-working team for 32 minutes every night. I really felt like we’ve been that in every game this year except one, and we won that game — it wasn’t the game we lost.
“We weren’t any of those things for the first 16 minutes tonight. They took it to us, and we were tentative, almost like we were scared — like we’ve been before to them. But we came out in the second half and inched back in.
“I’ve got to give it to every kid that played on the floor for us. Defensively, we just took over the game.”
Nolte finished the night with 13 points, three rebounds and one assist for the Hornets. Senior Corie Tunnell had two points and five rebounds, and Washington had three points, four rebounds and an assist.
Gatesville is scheduled to return to the floor Jan. 3 at 6:15 p.m. at Waco Connally.
LA VEGA BOYS 60, GATESVILLE 48: Kennon Moore registered 25 points and eight rebounds, but the Hornets could not overcome a late push by La Vega in a in the District 17-4A boys opener.
Gatesville (10-7, 0-1) led 47-45 with five minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the ballgame. But the Pirates (5-5, 1-0) scored 15 of the final 16 points to capture the win.
Senior Alex Mata recorded seven points, four rebounds and two assists for the Hornets, while Brandon Hill added six points, three rebounds and an assist.
Amani Gibson led La Vega with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, and De’Andre Reese had 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists.