By BRETT MARSHALL
With two minutes remaining in Saturday's Hillsboro Trojan Classic championship game, the Holcomb Longhorns found themselves owning a one-point lead on the No. 1-ranked Hesston Swathers.
But the Longhorns were unable to maintain that slim advantage, turning the ball over three consecutive times, and eventually falling by a 57-51 score.
While the loss was tough for coach Chad Novack and his team, the Longhorns came out of one of the state's top mid-size class tournaments with a 2-1 record and having played two of the toughest teams — Hesston and Hillsboro.
"We'll take a lot of good things away from the tournament," Novack said on Sunday. "For the most part, the kids played hard, but we had 16 turnovers, which is way too many against a good team like Hesston. You don't have that margin of error against a quality team."
The Longhorns struggled at the free throw line, as well, making just 9 of 17 at the charity stripe.
"You do those things, it doesn't give you the best chance to win," Novack said. "You look at this game and we can look to see the things we can work on to get better. We're close to going from a good team to a really good team."
Novack said he was especially pleased with so many of his newcomers who came in and played well during the tournament. The majority of his roster did not play in the tournament last year, including senior Heath Tucker, who was out with a hip injury a season ago. Tucker was the big offensive threat for the 'Horns in the title game, scoring 21 points, including going 8 of 10 at the free throw line.
"We had people in foul trouble early, and we had others step in and do a really good job for us," Novack said. "When we execute our offense, set the screens right, and come off them correctly, we get good shots. I liked our aggressiveness to the basket."
The Longhorns fell behind early, trailing 14-6 after one quarter, but then rallied with a 17-12 second quarter surge, making it 26-23 at halftime. The teams traded points evenly in the third, each getting 17, making it 43-40 heading into the final eight minutes.
"I thought we were able to get some stops, broke them down and played pretty good defense," Novack said of his team's rally. "Down the stretch, I thought maybe we showed some battle with the nerves. A lot of these kids haven't played in big games. They fought, and played hard."
The Longhorns finished the game hitting 19 of 40 field goals for 47.5 percent while Hesston was 21-of-43 shooting for 48.8 percent. The Longhorns did own a 26-21 rebounding edge, with Conner VanCleave grabbing seven.
The Longhorns are now 9-3 overall and will be idle until traveling to Hugoton on Friday for a Great West Activities Conference game.
Hesston 14 12 17 14 -- 57
Holcomb 6 17 17 11 -- 51
Hesston (57)--McKinner 8 4-7 20, Schadler 3 1-2 8, Smith 2 2-2 6, McCartney 2 0-2 4, Duersksen 1 0-0 2, Raleigh 5 6-6 17. Totals 21 13-19 57
Holcomb (51)--VanCleave 3 0-0 8, Richmeier 2 0-2 4, Jarnagin 1 0-0 2, Schmidt 1 0-0 2, Sleep 4 1-2 9, Tucker 6 8-10 21, Gottschalk 2 1-1 5. Totals 19 9-17 51.
3-point goals--Hesston 2 (Schadler 1, Raleigh), Holcomb 4 (VanCleave 2, Tucker, Gottschalk).
Holcomb girls 46, Goodland 41
Early foul trouble for Haley Heydman and Kylee Amos left the Holcomb Lady Longhorns with depth problems and height issues against the Goodland Cowgirls in the fifth place game of the Hillsboro Trojan Classic on Saturday.
But the Longhorns persevered through the adversity and came away with a 46-41 triumph to run their season record to 11-1 and come out of the Classic with a 2-1 record.
Taylor Deniston came up with another big effort for the Lady Longhorns, scoring 25 points, including 7 of 13 field goals and 11 of 12 free throws.
"Taylor put the team on her back in the game, and there's not very many players that can do that," said Holcomb coach Kenton Tennal. "They were big, and we didn't finish well at the basket and didn't get to the free throw line as much as we'd normally do."
Tennal said his team was still working on improving its halfcourt defense and halfcourt offense, going away some from the fullcourt press his team employed a year ago.
"We just don't have the depth that you need, and I don't think you really press good teams with a lot of success," Tennal said. "We'll press in spots, but not like we've done in the past."
Goodland jumped out to a 13-11 lead after one quarter and was ahead 23-22 at halftime. Narrow margins of 13-9 and 11-9 in the final two quarters provided the final five-point winning margin.
Deniston grabbed a team-high seven rebounds as the Longhorns lost the board battle, 39-32. Hope Cochran and Brianna White paced the Cowgirls with nine and eight points, respectively. Goodland is now 7-4 overall.
The Longhorns will be idle until Friday when they travel to Hugoton for a showdown with the Lady Eagles in a Great West Activities Conference battle of the top two teams.
Holcomb 11 11 13 11 -- 46
Goodland 13 10 9 9 -- 41
Holcomb (46)--Herington 1 0-0 3, Amos 1 1-2 4, Deniston 7 11-12 25, Heydman 3 0-0 7, Jarnigin 3 0-0 7. Totals 15 12-14 46.
Goodland (41)--Ortner 1 0-0 3, Cochran 4 0-0 9, Be. White 1 3-4 5, Br. White 3 1-2 8, Mayer 2 2-2 7, Biermann 2 0-0 5, Ka. King 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 6-8 41.
3-point goals--Holcomb 4 (Herington, Amos, Heydman, Jarnigin), Goodland 5 (Cochran, Ortner, Br. White, Mayer, Miermann).