GATESVILLE — Marlee Ward could feel the momentum slipping away.
Looking to capture a share of its first district championship since 2017, Gatesville created an early double-digit cushion, but by the end of the third quarter, Robinson was beginning to wrestle away control.
The Lady Rockets, who entered the night atop the District 18-4A standings, trimmed the deficit to seven points, 42-35, and looked to gain even more ground with starting guard T’ana Nolte and sixth man Allaiya Jones fouled out.
Ward refused to let it happen, though.
The junior forward opened the fourth quarter with seven unanswered points, and the Hornets never eased up, winning 64-46 to earn the top seed in the playoffs.
Following the victory, Ward admitted feeling something had to be done.
“I had to help take the lead,” she said. “I couldn’t let things fall apart.
“We got down just a little, and I felt like I had to do something to turn the game around.”
And she did.
Ward scored nine of her game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, including the initial outburst to start the period, but she impacted the game throughout, according to Gatesville head coach Ryan Ocheskey.
“She provides energy for us all the time,” he said, “and it’s just huge.
“It gives us a burst of energy, and when she starts finishing around the basket, it brings a lot to the team.”
The squads played to a 2-2 tie before the Hornets closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run. Then, Gatesville (21-12, 7-3) widened the gap to 13 points, 23-10, on Nolte’s layup.
Robinson (12-17, 7-3) responded by scoring 13 of the game’s next 19 points to pull within six points, 29-23, at halftime, and the margin remained virtually unchanged as the Hornets led 42-35 entering the final period.
Playing at home for the final time this season, however, Ward refused to allow a loss.
“I wanted to give it my all for the seniors,” she said. “They mean a lot to me, and I’m really close with them.
“It was a big night for all of us, but I really wanted to give it my all for them.”
Along with Ward’s output, Alayna Washington added 16 points for Gatesville, while teammate Allaiya Jones tallied all nine of her points in the first half.
Now, the Hornets, who faced the possibility of playing a tiebreaker later this week to determine seeding if they lost to Robinson, turn their attention toward the program’s first playoff appearance since 2018.
Ocheskey intends to enjoy the district title first, though.
“This is something these girls have been looking forward to since junior high,” he said. “They’ve played together forever and known how good they could be.
“For them to come together and win a district championship is a big deal, and we’re not done yet.”
GATESVILLE 64, ROBINSON 46
Crowson 16, Welsh 13, Asheralt 8, Dudley 3, Lashombe 2, Schnizer 2, Doyle 2.
Ward 18, Washington 16, Jones 9, Chacon 4, Jaynes 4, Boyd 4, Warren 3, L.Smalley 2, Nolte 2, C.Smalley 2.
Robinson 4 19 12 11—46
Gatesville 15 14 13 22—64
3-Point Goals—Robinson 3 (Welsh 2, Dudley), Gatesville 2 (Warren, Ward). Free Throws—Robinson 15-27, Gatesville 18-29. Fouled Out—Nolte, Jones. Total Fouls—Robinson 21, Gatesville 25. Technicals—None
Records—Robinson 12-17, 7-3 18-4A; Gatesville 21-12, 7-3.
TUESDAY'S 18-4A SCORES
- China Spring 39, Waco La Vega 32
- Gatesville 64, Robinson 46
- Lorena 52, Waco Connally 24
FINAL 18-4A GIRLS STANDINGS
x-China Spring (6-4)
Waco La Vega (5-5)
Waco Connally (0-10)
x-clinched playoff spot
y-clinched top seed