Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Holcomb head coach Chad Novack.
By KEVIN THOMPSON
SCOTT CITY — Dominant.
When a great team plays great, there's no stopping it, as Scott City has shown time after time this season.
The Beavers reached the semifinals of the sub-state with a dominating 76-32 win over Lakin.
Scott City had to feel as if it had the Midas touch as almost everything it did was golden.
First, two quarters in which the Beavers scored 25 and 29 points. Second, holding Lakin to single-digit scoring in three quarters. Third, just nine turnovers to Lakin's 18. Fourth, a 26-14 rebounding edge.
Add to that 10 players getting into the scorebook, and it's the formula for success that is all too familiar for the 22-1 Beavers, who are making a solid run at defending their Class 3A state title.
The Beavers' key to the win was playing relaxed ball while staying intense. The oxymoronic strategy worked, according to postman Drew Kite.
"We've been working a lot on our defensive intensity all week in practice," he said. "Our 22, or half-court defense, we've been working really hard on that, so I think that's why we came out so hard."
The numbers support Kite. Lakin turned the ball over 11 times in that opening quarter, including 11 times in its first 13 possessions.
Meanwhile, the Beavers were having their way on offense, scoring on 13 of their 17 first-quarter possessions as they built a 25-8 lead at the break.
By halftime, they had converted 16-of-28 shots (58 percent) for a 34-15 lead.
In the third period, they got even better, scoring on 13-of-16 possessions, and Lakin just had no answer.
The mercy-rule running clock was in effect the fourth quarter as the Beavers breezed into the finals Saturday night against Holcomb.
Coach Glenn O'Neil was quick to point out how well the Beavers executed nearly all night.
"I thought they played pretty relaxed. We told that that whatever happens is going to happen. You just have to go out and play well,"
Play well they did, going 29-of-59 from the floor with balanced scoring and team effort.
Brett O'Neil led the Beavers with 14 points, Trey O'Neill had 12, and Joey Meyer and Anthony Wilson both had 10.
"It's a fun team because they play well together," Glenn O'Neil said. "They play hard and they play unselfish. Those are two keys for us."
Kite said the team was clicking on all cylinders this night. They knew Lakin would try to get the ball to Bryant Miller (17 points a game) and keyed on that. Miller was held to just 11 points to lead the Broncs.
For Lakin, it was the end of an eight-game winning streak. The last team to beat the Broncs? Scott City on the same court.
For Lakin coach Steven Davidson, it was simply a matter of Scott City just playing well with all their weapons.
"They're an awfully good team," he said. "We didn't come out the way I thought we would. We came out intimidated, same as the last time we played them. We worked on things the last few nights, but we didn't get back as well on defense."
Davidson was hoping for a quick start, but instead Scott City got huge scoring streaks throughout the game. That wasn't in the game plan, but that was all on Scott City's execution and intensity.
"We hoped to get out to a quicker start, but when you get down like that it's hard to really do anything," he said.
Besides Miller, Cody Kinnier had 10 points for the Broncs, the only two players in double figures.
With the Beavers back in the title game, Kite said the Beavers are playing with confidence.
"Coach keeps telling us to be relaxed and I think we'll be that," he said.
O'Neil said the matchup on Saturday against Holcomb should be a good one as both teams are very similar in a number of areas.
"We do a lot of things similar on our transition game. Both half-court offenses are similar, and both body types of players are similar," he said. "It's a game a lot of people were expecting to see, so I guess we'll see it."
Lakin 8 7 11 6 -- 32
Scott City 25 9 29 13 -- 76
Lakin (12-10) — Shalberg 0 1-2 1, Miller 4 0-0 11, Davidson 1 0-0 2, Kinnier 5 0-1 10, Chavez 2 0-0 4, Armstrong 2 0-0 4. Totals 14 1-3 32.
Scott City (22-1) — B. O'Neil 5 4-6 14, Wells 1 0-0 2, T. O'Neil 5 0-0 12, Robinson 1 0-0 3, Clinton 1 0-0 2, Hess 3 1-1 7, Habiger 2 0-0 5, Wilson 4 0-0 10, Meyer 4 2-2 10, Kite 3 3-4 9. Totals 29 10-13.
3-point goals — Lakin 3 (Miller 3), Scott City 6 (T. O'Neil 2, Robinson 1, Habiger 1, Wilson 2). Rebounds — Lakin 14, Scot City 26. Turnovers — Lakin 18, Scott City 9.
A little over a week ago, Holcomb scored just three points against Ulysses and had to fight back to make a game of that, but it was too much to overcome.
Tuesday night, the Longhorns opened substate play with a similar stretch before kicking into gear for a convincing win.
Thursday against a similar Norton Bluejays team, Holcomb knew it could not afford a slow start.
They made sure that didn't happen again, putting on an offensive show as they defeated Norton 67-45 to advance to the finals on Saturday against Scott City.
The Longhorns used a combination of hot offense with tight defense to open up a 37-30 halftime lead, outscored Norton 30-15 in the second half, and cruised to what many would see as an easy win.
But Holcomb coach Chad Novack said it was anything but easy. It was a combination of team play on both ends of the court that worked for them, and it's what he's looking for in Saturday's final.
"Norton's a scrappy ball club. Give them credit, they played really hard. They got after it on defense," he said. "But I thought our kids executed our offense and did an extremely good job crashing the boards tonight."
Not only did Holcomb convert 44 percent of its shots (27-of-61), but it owned the boards, outrebounding the Jays 38-15.
Shane Bennet hit six points in the first quarter to lead Holcomb, but six other Longhorns also scored. In the second, five Holcomb players got in the scorebook.
Heath Tucker scored seven third-quarter points to ignite the Holcomb offense out of the locker room, leading five more players, and five guys scored in the fourth.
Defensively, Novack said the Longhorns played solidly, for the most part, forcing 22 Norton turnovers. His team's 18 turnovers, however, will have to come down when they face Scott City on Saturday.
But holding Norton to just 15 second-half points and shutting the Jays down one stretch of 11 straight possessions speaks well of Holcomb's overall defense, he added.
"The second half we executed the game plan--stop penetration, hand up on shooters, and then execute our offense," Novack said.
The offensive effort was hugely balance. Nine Longhorns got in the scorebook, led by Bennett's 14 and Tucker's 12.
But Holcomb doesn't care about who scores how many, Novack said, because all season long it's been about family, not individualism.
"These guys, they don't care who scores as long as at the end of the game we get the 'W,'" he said. "It showed tonight. We distributed the ball well. If everybody does their job, it makes our team better."
Norton's Jacob Brooks, who was hampered with a second-quarter ankle injury, still scored 18 to lead the Jays and Jordan Wahlmeier added 10 and Dillon McConney eight.
Next up, Scott City. Holcomb being in the finals feels good, Novack said.
"We just play our game," he said. "We play hard, have confidence and play our style of ball, we just let the ball roll where it needs to--or let the dice fall where they may."
Norton 12 18 8 7 -- 45
Holcomb 19 18 16 14 -- 67
Norton (12-9) — Nickell 1 0-0 2, Brooks 6 5-6 18, Hartwell 1 0-0 3, Wahlheimer 5 0-0 10, McConney 3 0-0 8, LeClair 1 0-0 2, McKenna 0 1-2 1. Totals 17 6-8 45.
Holcomb (14-7) — Cox 2 0-0 5, LaSalle 4 0-0 9, Hernandez 3 1-2 7, Homer 3 2-2 8, Tucker 4 2-2 12, Gilbert 2 1-1 5, Thomas 0 1-2 1, Bennett 6 2-2 14, Ramsey 3 0-0 6. Totals 27 9-11 67.
3-point goals — Norton 4 (Brooks 1, Hartwell 1, McConney 2), Holcomb 4 (Cox 1, LaSalle 1, Tucker 2). Rebounds — Norton 15, Holcomb 38 (Bennett 9). Turnovers — Norton 22, Holcomb 19. Fouled out — none. Fouls — Norton 11, Holcomb 10.