Facing a former district rival for the second time in a week, the Brownwood Lions’ growth continued with a more tightly-contested battle Friday night at Warren Gym in their final outing before the Christmas break.

However, it was the Gatesville Hornets who again emerged victorious, 56-42, as the Lions slipped to 2-10 in their first season under head coach Grant Freeman. Brownwood dropped a 63-42 decision to Gatesville this past Saturday during the Hamilton tournament.

Despite the loss, Freeman saw plenty of positives for the Lions to build on as they return to action Dec. 30-31 at the Gatesville tournament.

“To me, it looked like a whole different team than the one from Tuesday,” Freeman said, referencing the Lions’ 58-42 home setback against Class 2A Goldthwaite. “I know the score doesn’t reflect that, but it looked so much better as far as the way they flowed.

“We had flashes of really good offense and flashes of being really stagnant. I thought our movement and flow was a lot better, that improved, we just have to put the ball in the basket a little bit better. Defensively, we held them to 56 points, which is around what we’re shooting for, 55 points or so a game. I was pleased with the effort, we just didn’t put the ball in the hole enough.”

Brownwood received a game-high 19 points from Cory Richardson, but the rest of the Lions’ lineup struggled to find any offensive consistency. Crystan Wright added five points trailed by Hayden Day and Cody Richardson with four each, McLane Moore with three, Kory Owen, Blaine Hughes and Mason Cabaniss with two points apiece and Rosavelt Duffie with one.

“We’re trying to find combos that work,” Freeman said. “When you’re young, sometimes the offense doesn’t come to you, you have to find where you fit in the offense. It’s frustrating when all the points are coming from the point guard. That tells me we have to fix some things in the way we run and move. We have to create with movement with other guys.”

Justin Massey led Gatesville with 18 points followed by Kennon Moore with 13, Josh Gonzales with nine, Payton Smalley with six, Lance Gray and Jake Young with four points each and Brian Janssen with two points.

The Lions trailed 12-6 after one quarter as Gatesville went on an 8-2 run over the final three minutes. At halftime, the deficit stood at 13 points, 28-15, as Cory Richardson generated eight points for Brownwood, while Moore poured in 10 for the Hornets.

Brownwood began the second half with a 7-0 surge that trimmed Gatesville’s lead to 28-22. A couple of Brownwood steals led to a deuce and a trey from Richardson, along with a bucket from Hughes.

“We talk at halftime about coming out and winning the first three minutes of the second half, and they really did that,” Freeman said. “They picked up their intensity on defense and attacked the basket. When they do that, even if the shots don’t go in, that’s still what we’re looking for. They did a great job with that.”

Massey answered with back-to-back threes for Gatesville, which quickly stretched the lead back to a dozen points, 34-22, en route to taking a 40-29 advantage into the fourth period. There, the Lions didn’t score for the first 3:45 of the quarter, which allowed the Hornets to extend their cushion to 48-29.

Brownwood was able to trim the deficit to 11 points, 53-42, with 1:11 to go, but got no closer.