The Gainesville Leopards haven’t had trouble sticking with their district opponents and Tuesday’s game against Melissa was no different.

Despite trailing 21-11 after the first quarter, Gainesville cut the lead to one point before Melissa hit a 3-pointer to close out the first half up 32-28.

Gainesville trailed by five points headed to the fourth quarter, but it was Melissa that pulled away late for the 76-58 win to send the Leopards to their fourth district loss.

Gainesville leaned on its press in the second quarter to get the Leopards back in the game, but Melissa had a better response to the Leopards’ pressure in the second half.

“I hate saying it like this, but they made more shots than we did,” Gainesville head coach Jeff Wolf said. “Melissa dealt with the press better. I felt like that was a close game. I mean, first quarter, we’re down. We’re down by 10 in the second quarter. We held them to 11 points in the second quarter and held together defensively. Guys are playing together as a group. They’re playing together as a family. I felt like that’s what they were doing.”

The second quarter in which the Leopards outscored Melissa 17-11 saw the Leopards scrambling on defense all over the court, which forced turnovers and led to easier shots for their offense.

Wolf said he feels like his team plays better when they play fast.

“I don’t want them to have to think a lot,” Wolf said.

Gainesville was led by 12 points each from senior forward Draylon Franklin and junior guard Isaiah Gipson.

Sophomore forward Tre Lawson was held to just eight points, including two points in the first half while sophomore guard Robyn Hardin added seven points.

The Leopards did spread out their offense as only one player didn’t score, but despite distributing the offense evenly, Wolf said their inability to knock down their easier shots is what hurt them.

“We missed a lot of easy shots and our shooting percentage wasn’t too great,” Wolf said. “Not just one person, but several guys. There were good looks, but we just didn’t knock them down. I don’t think the shot selection was bad at all.”

Wolf said not getting off to a strong start hurt them.

“Anytime you’re trailing, you’re scrambling to get back and so basically a team that’s up can kind of control the game a little bit better, in any sport,” Wolf said.

As far as how the Leopards can get off to a better start in the future, Wolf said it begins with hitting the easy shots they missed in Tuesday’s game.

“We’ve got to make some of the easy shots we were missing,” Wolf said. “We’ve got to knock those down.”

The Leopards will host Anna on Friday, Jan. 25 to close out the first half of district play.

Despite being unable to pick up a district win so far, Wolf is encouraged about how his team has played.

“I mean, we are in every game,” Wolf said. “We’ve got to get it together pretty quick, but we’re still in the mix. We’ve got district games coming up on the road. It’s still a battle. I mean, hopefully we’ll play better on the road than we have played at home.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip