Horn and Mesquite have traveled very different roads in recent years.
The Jaguars have never missed the playoffs since becoming a varsity program in 2003 and have won at least a share of the district championship in each of the last four seasons.
The Skeeters, meanwhile, have not qualified for the postseason since 2014.
Mesquite has made strides toward ending that drought throughout the first month under head coach Kelsi Baker, a former standout at Horn, and carried a better record into the 11-6A season.
But the Jaguars sent a reminder to the Skeeters that they are not there quite yet, as they rallied for a 45-41 victory on Monday in the district opener for both teams at Horn High School.
Mesquite (11-9, 0-1) led for all but a few seconds in the first half and pushed the advantage as high as nine, but Horn (8-10, 1-0) never let them get out of their sights.
After a pair of free throws from Jene Samuels gave the Skeeters a 22-13 lead late in the second quarter, the Jaguars embarked on a 22-5 run that stretched into the fourth. During that push, Horn held Mesquite without a field goal for more than nine minutes.
Kyahria Thomas finally broke the drought with a jumper that made it 35-29 with 5:45 left and it sparked a brief offensive explosion for both teams.
Cha’Quayla Green scored twice for Mesquite, with Horn countering with a jumper by Danielle Johnson and a 3-pointer by Katelyn Cobb. Lakeycia Bables then got free for a layup for the Skeeters to close to within 40-35.
The Jaguars maintained their advantage and were up 43-36 with 2:28 left, but left the door open with some misses at the free throw line, hitting only 2-of-8 attempts down the stretch.
A free throw by Bables and baskets from Jalesa Davis and Kaiya Freelon allowed Mesquite to creep to within 44-41 with 20 seconds left.
The Skeeters then fouled and Horn missed both free throws with 13.7 seconds remaining, but the Jaguars were able to grab the offensive rebound to prevent Mesquite the chance to attempt a game-tying attempt.
Horn was without the services of leading scorer Jasmine Shavers for the second straight game as she recovers from an injury. In her absence, Tra’Liyah Washington turned in a big all-around game with a team-high 15 points with nine rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.
In addition to Washington, Cobb tallied 11 points, Dasia Robinson scored seven and Johnson had all six of her points in the second half.
Bables paced the Skeeters with 12 points, followed by Samuels with nine and Freelon with eight.
While Mesquite endured its cold stretch during the second half, it was Horn who could not buy a basket at the start, as they missed their first 11 shots from the field.
The Skeeters were not lighting it up themselves, but a floater from Freelon and a putback by Samuels gave them the early lead.
Washington finally got Horn going with a pair of buckets late in the first quarter, but Bables consistently got to the basket early on and scored nine straight Skeeter points to lift them to a 13-7 lead early in the second.
Washington kept the Jaguars close with eight of their first 11 points, including a layup to cut it to two.
Mesquite came right back with a 9-2 run, as Kayriona Brown converted a putback, Freelon scored inside and Samuels drained a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to push the lead to 22-13 with 55 seconds left in the first half.
Horn began to turn the tide right before the break, as Robinson and Cobb hit free throws and Viencia Jackson converted a layup as part of a quick 5-0 run to get it back to four and they carried that over into the rest of the night to earn the district-opening win.