By KEVIN THOMPSON
LAKIN — The last Hi-Plains League loss for the Holcomb Longhorns had been near the end of the 2004-2005 season.
During that stretch, coach Scott Stegman's squad had captured 41 consecutive HPL victories and four straight unbeaten league championships.
One streak is over now following the Longhorns' 64-57 loss to Lakin's Broncs here Tuesday night in the league opener for the Longhorns.
The Broncs used a tough defense and a hustling offense to put down their heated rivals in Hi-Plains League action Tuesday night in a game that was close right up to the end.
How close? Tied at 18 after the first quarter. Lakin up one at the half. Lakin up three after the third. And the Broncs outscoring Holcomb 25-21 in a tough fourth quarter.
Ask either coach, and both agreed it didn't take them much to get their teams pumped for this rivalry game, especially coming off a long Christmas break.
"We had extra motivation tonight," Lakin first-year coach Greg Reed said. "We were coming off of break. They had a 41-game league win streak. It's always tough when you go in to play Holcomb."
Holcomb held its last lead late in the second quarter at 26-22. A Dylan Shalberg trey and a Zach Reed bucket gave the Broncs the one-point halftime lead.
The game was back and forth into the final quarter when the Broncs stepped up at different times to hit free throws, dipsy-doodle layups and some threes. The Longhorns could never get any closer than five points, though it didn't come without a hard-fought effort.
Mitchell Gaede, playing with four fouls, banked a three off the board to get his team within six with 24 seconds left. He hit another shot on an offensive rebound with 10 seconds left. But Bryant Miller's free throws put the game away.
"Bryant's a great free throw shooter. We were trying to get the ball to him as quick as we could and let them foul him and take the easy points," Reed said.
In fact, free throws were the story of the night. Holcomb was 4-of-17, while Lakin was 21-of-35.
"Any time a team outshoots you in free throws that much and that high a percentage, they're going to come out winning," Holcomb coach Scott Stegman said.
Reed said his game plan was to hold Gaede in check, and he praised Shalberg with a job well done there, especially in the second half when Gaede only scored those two late baskets.
Shalberg led Lakin (4-3) with 20 points. Miller and Colby Hamel added 14 each.
Hamel hit his second consecutive double-double game by adding 15 rebounds.
"He came out and played well," Reed said of Hamel. "He got it going that second half and just kept it going. He played a whale of a game."
Logan Singhisen led Holcomb (2-3) with 18 points, followed by Gaede with 15. Jacob VanCampen added 10 before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
Lakin travels to Goodland on Friday and hosts Larned Saturday. Holcomb travels to Colby on Friday.
Lakin 64, Holcomb 57
HOLCOMB (57) - Singhisen 7 4-7 18, Merz 0 0-0 0, Robinson 1 0-1 2, M. Gaede 7 0-0 15, Pfeifer 0 0-0 0, N. Gaede 1 0-0 2, Walck 3 0-2 6, DeLaRosa 2 0-3 4, VanCampen 5 0-2 10. Totals 26-68 4-17 57.
LAKIN (64) - Jones 2 3-6 8, Shalberg 8 3-6 20, Miller 4 5-6 14, Rosales 0 0-0 0, Armstrong 0 2-4 2, Reed 2 2-2 6, Hamel 4 6-11 14. Totals 20-41 21-35 64.
Holcomb 18 8 10 21 -- 57
Lakin 18 9 12 25 -- 64
3-point goals - Holcomb 1 (M. Gaede 1); Lakin 3 (Jones 1, Shalberg 1, Miller 1).