By KEVIN THOMPSON
Holcomb — There's nothing like a good old barn burner of a game to get a tournament going.
That's what happened at Holcomb High School as the Longhorns held on for a 48-46 win over Denver South on the opening night of the Clarion Inn Southwest Classic.
The Longhorns came back from a deep hole in the opening period and took a 12-point lead at halftime.
Then they watched as an athletic Rebels squad mounted their own comeback, cutting it to just four points midway in the third.
In the final period, Holcomb built a 46-41 lead on a Heath Tucker drive and free throw before Antonio Garcia nailed a three at the two-minute mark.
Holcomb missed crucial free throws, including six in the final seconds. But it was Tucker's two clutch throws with under seven seconds left that gave the Longhorns the lead and the win.
Tucker led all scorers with with 24 points.
The only other field goals were three by Dalton Gottschalk (8 points) and six by Trey Sleep (14).
The rest of the team was 0-for-13 from the floor and just 12-of-24 from the line.
A bit concerning for coach Chad Novack, but a win like this is a good one.
"Starting off 10-0 in favor of Denver is not the way we had planned it," he said. "But these kids responded well. That shows a lot of character."
South got off to a 10-0 lead with 2:44 left in the opening quarter. Then Holcomb started an innocuous comeback in the form of free throws (5-of-6) before Tucker hit the first field goal for Holcomb with 25 seconds remaining.
Tucker converted a traditional 3-point play to tie the game and Sleep got Holcomb the 14-10 lead on pair of layups.
With just under four minutes to play in the half, South was already 0-for-11 from 3-point range, but continued to fire away (they finished 3-of-21).
Meanwhile, Holcomb started to find its stride.
Tucker drove through the lane for a spinning layup, then Sleep put back a shot off a rebound from Gottschalk.
Tucker hit a reverse layup on Holcomb's next possession. Gottschalk got a steal and a breakaway layup on the next. And Tucker drained a three over a defender at the buzzer and just like that the Longhorns were up 25-13. That is three points allowed in nearly 11 minutes and a 25-3 run for Holcomb in just under 10 minutes.
"These kids hate to lose," Novack said. "They want to compete and that's what they did again. Early jitters got us, but once they settled (down), they played really hard."
Holcomb forced 13 turnovers, but none was bigger the final one.
Lorenzo Snoddy lost control as he drove for a layup to tie, but Calen Rupp ended up with the ball and was fouled.
Snoddy and Ibrahim Sylla led the Rebels with 12 points each.
"We did not shoot well (17-of-46 for 37 percent) but for us to shoot like that and come out with a 'W' — I'm excited for that," Novack said.
Denver's early physical game was a victim of a 1-3-1 zone defense, keeping the ball outside, and thankfully shots not falling, he added.
Freshman post Conner VanCleave pulled down eight rebounds, four in the pivotal second period.
It was a good learning experience, Novack said.
"That's why we play these early tournaments, to put ourselves in situations like this," he said.
Holcomb (2-0) hosts Pueblo (Colo.) East at approximately 7:45 p.m. today. Denver South (1-4) will face Garden City at approximately 7:45 p.m. at The Garden.
Denver South 10 3 17 16 -- 46
Holcomb 7 18 12 11 -- 48
Denver South (46)-- Pruifoy 3 2-3 8, Garcia 3 2-2 10, Sylla 6 0-1 12, Dumus-Peterson 1 1-2 4, Snoddy 6 0-3 12, M. Moore 0 0-2 0. Totals 19 5-13 46.
Holcomb (48) — Gottschalk 3 2-4 8, Tucker 8 6-9 24, Sleep 6 2-3 14, Rupp 0 0-2 0, Stegman 0 0-2 0, VanCleave 0 2-4 2. Totals 17 12-24 48.
3-point field goals--Denver South 3-21 (Garcia 2, Dumus-Peterson); Holcomb 2-12 (Tucker 2). Rebounds--Denver South 28 (Snoddy 8, Garcia 7); Holcomb 28 (VanCleave 8). Fouls--Denver South 21, Holcomb 12. Fouled out--Denver South (Pruifoy, Sylla).