Against what many prognosticators had pegged as the preseason district champion in Celina, the Gainesville Leopards dug themselves an early hole.
They trailed 25-14 after the first quarter and 49-34 at halftime, but they cut the lead to 77-70 in the final quarter.
However, they couldn’t pull off the comeback and fell 86-73 on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
There is still plenty to build off for head coach Jeff Wolf and the Leopards.
Four players scored in double digits as they were able to spread around their offense.
Tre Lawson led the team with 17 points while Traylen Shinault added 16 points. Robyn Hardin also added 12 points while Draylon Franklin had 16 points.
“It’s a team effort,” Wolf said. “It’s better when you start having multiple guys that can score. As a coach, it’s easier when you can just stop one guy. We were down by like 24 points and we cut it down to seven points by two and a half minutes to go. Our kids fought hard.”
Ironically, the Bobcats were led by just one player.
Karson Stastny led all players with 35 points, including 11 in the first quarter and 18 in the second quarter.
“A lot of time, he’s beating us by himself,” Wolf said. “He was the MVP of the district last year. He’s coach’s son, but he was beating us by himself. So he had 30 of them and we had 34 at halftime. So we had to do a better job with him. We let Tevin Manuel guard him a little bit in the fourth quarter and he did really good job.”
Manuel’s pressure led to just six second-half points for Stastny, which helped the Leopards attempt their comeback.
With the development of other players on the Leopards’ offense, Wolf said it was a positive he pulled from the game that he feels can be important moving forward.
However, Wolf is still unhappy with the loss.
“In any loss, we’re not satisfied by any means that we just hung with Celina,” Wolf said. “Ultimately the goal for us and the coaching staff is we need to make us competitive, but at the end of the day, the kids have to finalize it on the court. But we’re all working together and kids are coming along. We have to keep on going forward with it.”
The Leopards are now 0-2 in district play with the loss and will host Sanger on Friday, Jan. 18.
“Every game is worth one win, but it is a little more important considering whoever loses this game is going to be 0-3,” Wolf said. “So this is a big game. Every game is big. We will still work hard, but we have to earn it.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip