By JORDAN SHAY

sports@gctelegram.com

HOLCOMB Holcomb native Chad Novak was looking for a win Thursday night in his eighth season as a head coach, but his first game coaching at his alma matter. The Longhorns gave a strong first-quarter effort but ultimately could not keep pace with the Eagles of Pueblo East, Colo., falling 55-44 in the opening night of the Clarion Inn Southwest Classic at the Holcomb High School gym. "I think the biggest thing was the lack of offensive execution," said Novak, who previously coached seven years at Southwestern Heights.

"We knew we would make mistakes during our first game, and playing a school of this size is challenging. For a lot of young kids that don't have much pressure experience, we played well." The Longhorns took a scoring advantage early on when Pueblo's 6-7 center Rudy Parks was benched in foul trouble. Holcomb carried an 11-6 lead entering the second quarter. However, Holcomb's lead was short-lived as Pueblo came alive for the next three periods. The Eagles' first lead came at 6:35 in the second quarter and they exchanged the lead with Holcomb three times before pulling away at the 4:27 mark.

The Longhorns suffered a scoring drought, only scoring six points in that eight-minute period. The Eagles outscored Holcomb, 21-6. "Pueblo East has a quality ball club, big kids and they execute very well," Novak said. "We competed and stepped up to the challenge, but we have a lot of things to work on. We need to rebound and execute our offense a little better." While Holcomb held the 6-7 Parks scoreless in the first half, they struggled to find an answer for him in the second, where he scored a team-high 12 points. Holcomb fought back throughout the fourth quarter, coming within 44-34 on an Aaron Hernandez layup.

Junior Tyler LaSalle scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half in the losing effort. "I appreciate the boys' effort," Novak said. "I saw good things and things we need to work on. Overall, I saw more good than bad." The Longhorns step right back on the court at 8 p.m. today when they take on Oklahoma's No. 1-ranked Class 5A team, Del City, at the HHS gym.

On Saturday's final day of the Classic, they will take on Garden City at 7 p.m. at Perryman Athletic Complex on the Garden City Community College campus.

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Pueblo East (55) Jara 1 0-0 3, D. Gavin 3 4-5 10, Egger 0 2-4 2, T. Gavin 0 2-3 2, Parks 6 0-0 12, Lewis 5 1-2 14, Valdez 5 2-4 12. Holcomb (44) Cox 2 0-0 4, LaSalle 5 0-0 12, Hernandez 2 2-2 6, Homer 2 2-3 6, Tucker 1 2-2 4, Thomas 2 0-2 4, Bennett 1 1-3 3, Ramsey 1 3-4 5.

Pueblo East 6 21 15 13 --55

Holcomb 11 6 9 18 -- 44

3-Point Goals--Pueblo East 4 (Jara 1, Lewis 3); Holcomb 2 (LaSalle 2). Fouls--Pueblo East 17, Holcomb 18. Fouled out--Holcomb (Tucker).