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Gordon takes down Dodd City in regional semifinals

Mar. 1—MANSFIELD — The stage was set for a clash of Class 1A Region III powers at Mansfield High School in the first of two regional semifinal matchups Friday night. The Gordon Longhorns faced off against the Dodd City Hornets at 5 p.m. with a first-ever trip to regional finals in Gordon's sights.

The Longhorns used hot early shooting to get ahead early, and Gordon continued to build its lead with a scorching offensive attack combined with suffocating defense in the second quarter to increase its lead to double figures. In the end, Gordon continued to surge as it gradually pulled away from Dodd City for a 51-33 victory.

"It's a testament to the kids because they are multisport athletes, and we played 15 fewer games than the other teams in the regional tournament," Longhorns head coach Shad Reed said. "We have a motto of being relentless, and they have one of the most intense coaches in the business, so they're not going to let their guard down and I won't let them. Last year was the first regional tournament in school history and this year is the first trip to regional finals in school history. They're so young that they're just focused on winning these games. ... They work so hard just to be successful and they are very coachable."

The Longhorns (20-6, 9-1) had a shortened season due to their success on the football field in winning the 2023 Class 1A Division I UIL State Championship less than three months ago, but their lengthy seasons on the gridiron and the hardwood helped set up this shining moment in program history in the form of the team's first-ever appearance regional final.

"I would say a lot of our emotions with us being ready had to do with the position we were in last year, and part of it was us happy to just be there, but now we have a mentality of, 'When we step on the court, we are as good as anybody,'" Riley Reed said. "We play with a lot of emotion and are ready to just keep rolling."

In the regional quarterfinals, the Longhorns took down Morgan 58-31 while the Hornets ousted No. 2 Perrin-Whitt 60-54. In that game, Shad Reed took notice of the barrage of three's Dodd City hit in that contest. An off shooting night for Dodd City, coupled with stingy defense from Gordon's players, helped the team limit Dodd City mightily from behind the arc.

"The whole focal point after the regional quarterfinal game was their (Dodd City) three-point shooting — they hit, like, five or six three's against Perrin — and their number two (Nate Van Huss) had four of them," Longhorns head coach Shad Reed said. "We focused on shading that shooter and just knowing that they're very good from beyond the arc. Sometimes, any team will tell you that they just have bad shooting nights, and they (Dodd City) had one of those. Fortunately for us, we were able to rebound the ball well and our defensive game plan was on point."

Gordon sophomore guard Aidan Shank was red hot from 3-point land in the games opening minutes as he buried two triples during Gordon's opening 11-5 scoring run. Later in the frame, Stryker Reed canned a 3-pointer with 2:51 left that helped Gordon build a 16-12 first-quarter lead.

In the second quarter, Dodd City opened up the action by scoring the first two buckets to tie the score at 16-all, but Gordon's response was even stronger. The Longhorns answered Dodd City's four quick points with an and-one layup from Riley Reed, a pair of Shank 3-pointers and a tip in off a missed shot from Stryker Reed. The Longhorns continued to surge as they entered the halftime locker room with a 32-18 advantage, which meant Gordon closed the half on a 16-2 spurt.

Gordon controlled the second half of action, leading by as many as 21 points to secure the historic win. Shad Reed lauded his players' efforts in the win and deemed the performance as a complete team win.

"I have such fast athletes that can cover ground. When I put Riley (Reed) at the bottom, him and Stryker (Reed) are just cat daddies down there. Brayden (Walters) is just a monster, too, but Gatlin (Simmons) the freshman really stood out with some big boards and buckets around the rim. Aidan (Shank) had a tough shooting night Tuesday but he came back strong tonight, and Riley can open things up with his drives while Stryker handles the ball for us — it's a total team thing we have," Shad Reed said. "You can't really pinpoint one thing, but we did the things right that we needed to do to win."

Furthermore, the trust on the young Longhorns roster has paid dividends throughout the season and was a key factor in the regional semifinal win.

"It's definitely really helpful because if someone isn't playing well, someone else on the team will always step up," Riley Reed said. "Tonight, I didn't score the ball that well, but Aidan, Gatlin and Stryker all stepped up and we have each others' backs like that."

Shank scored a team-high 15 points while Stryker Reed finished with 13. Freshman post Gatlin Simmons performed well with 11 points to go with several rebounds and blocked shots while Riley Reed added eight.

The Longhorns will aim for their first-ever trip to the state tournament against the No. 1 Graford Rabbits, who defeated Huckabay in their regional semifinal contest, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Mansfield High School.