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Gatesville's Zach Mueller (5) is surrounded by Jarrell defenders and fouled while shooting during the Salado Coach Smith Memorial Tournament on Friday at Salado. Gatesville won 65-59.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

That is Gatesville’s motto this season, and the Hornets are living up to the mantra.

For a sport typically dominated by tall athletes, senior Parker Floyd is Gatesville’s tallest player at 6-feet, 5-inches.

Floyd’s fellow Hornets average a height of 5-8.

“We’re the underdogs,” Gatesville senior guard Tyler Lewis said, “but we’ll come out and beat anyone we’re up against.”

Despite being outsized, the Hornets outplayed the competition at the recent Coach Smith Memorial Tournament last week in Salado, where their only loss came against the host team.

“We just challenge them,” Gatesville head coach Thomas Winkler said. “We’re going to be the smallest team on the court almost every game, but we probably have more heart than everyone else.

“They may be bigger, but we still have to go get it, and we’ve got guys that will attack the boards.”

Their love of the game and their desire to do whatever is needed is key to the team’s success, according to Winkler.

“They care about each other so much that they’ll sacrifice a part of themselves for the team,” he said.

At Salado, senior Tyler Hallman was hit in the face by the ball during a play against Caldwell during a 72-44 win in the tournament opener. Then, Zach Mueller dove for a loose ball on the sideline and slammed into the bleachers during the Hornets’ 54-49, third-place victory over Class 2A No. 9 Thorndale.

The players’ willingness to sacrifice for the team and play for each other stems from their history off the court.

“The chemistry is unbelievable,” Winkler said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had this good of a team before.

“Those guys love each other, they all know their roles, they’ve all accepted their roles and they’re all trying to excel in their roles.”

Lewis’ methods of leadership vary from game to game.

He might be required to score as he did against Thorndale with 30 points, but he could also be asked to facilitate the offense.

“I’m glad that I’m in a position to help this team win at all costs,” Lewis said. “We’ve played football together, we’ve all grown up together, so the chemistry is always there.”

Teammate Anthony Costas agrees.

“We really communicate well on the defensive side of the floor,” he said, “and that’s what I think helps us a lot.”

With a veteran roster consisting of 10 seniors and only three underclassmen, Gatesville left the Salado tournament with a sense of confidence, but know that there is still work to do.

“Defense and rebounding,” Hallman said. “Those are two tough things to have, but we’ll keep working on it and get better with it.

“We’re a hardworking team.”

Walking away with just one loss is one step closer to the Hornets’ preseason goal of earning a tournament championship.

“Hopefully,” Lewis said, “this gives us a little bit of confidence to know that we can go in and can beat good teams at any time.”

A victory against a ranked team also helps Gatesville propel the Hornets forward as they compete at the Glen Rose Invitational this weekend.

“We played with confidence,” said Winkler of upsetting Thorndale, “and we can continue to build that confidence, because you can’t underestimate how huge that is for players.”

fcardenas@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7562

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