By The Telegram For the past two seasons, the Holcomb Longhorns have been one of the most successful basketball programs in southwest Kansas preps. A third-place finish in 2008 and a first-round loss in 2009 provided the Longhorns and coach Scott Stegman plenty of excitement as they ran off 40 consecutive victories in the Hi-Plains League in a four-year period. "Going to state the last two years should give us the confidence, experience and desire we need to have a successful season," Stegman said. "Our jayvee and freshman programs continue to have great success and the experience gained there should help our varsity this year." Stegman has one full-time starter returning in honorable mention all-league guard Mitchell Gaede, a 6-0 senior point guard who averaged five points a game on a team that included four seniors who made all-league (Jordan Wilcox, Matt Heydman, Zevin Roth and C.J. Brau). That group led the 'Horns to a 21-3 record and a runner-up finish in the prestigious Dodge City Tournament of Champions. Stegman will look to another part-time starter, 6-1 senior center Jacob VanCampen for frontcourt experience. He averaged six points in a mostly reserve role but did start seven games. "It will be a challenge to find the correct mix of inexperienced players with the experienced players," Stegman said. "The senior leaders will have to step up in a positive way." Other top returners for Stegman include 6-2 junior Logan Singhisen, 6-0 junior Trey DeLaRosa, 6-0 senior Brett Robinson and 5-10 senior Matt Pfeifer. Brady Merz, a 5-8 junior guard, transferred from Satanta and is also expected to be in the mix for backcourt playing time. Lack of height will be a factor for the Longhorns to overcome but Stegman expects his team to have its traditional trademarks a tough, pressing defense and good shooting on offense. "We'll have to play hard on the defensive end and do the little things like blocking out, diving for loose balls," Stegman said for his team to be successful. "We have a lot of kids that are good shooters, including our posts and they're good athletes. The attitude is good and the kids have great discipline."

Three returning starters will provide the nucleus for Holcomb girls basketball coach Kelly Snodgrass to build around for the 2009-2010 season.

After a 10-12 record with an inexperienced team, Snodgrass is hoping that the experience gained will provide room for improvement in the upcoming season.

"Hopefully, the year of experience will help," Snodgdrass said. "With some veteran starters and athletic youth, we shoUld compete well in the Hi-Plains League."

Headlining the group of returners is 5-10 junior forward Breanna Gottschalk, an all-league selection a year ago and a third-team all-area pick by The Telegram. The other two starters are 5-5 senior Ashley Baier, considered one of the top all-around athletes in the area, and 5-6 junior Amy Stegman, a good outsider shooter and defender.

Snodgrass will look to a strong group of juniors to round out the starting lineup and top reserves. That group will include 5-10 Heidi Boyles, 5-7 Mallory Komlofske, 5-7 Madison Landwehr, 5-7 Lauren Lohfink and 5-5 Danielle Asmus.

"We do not have much depth to start with," Snodgrass said. "Our jayvee, part-time varsity players from a year ago will need to step up and play at the varsity level. We will look to be playing hard on defense, improve the rebounding and finding more scoring threats."

------------ Holcomb Longhorns Class: 3A League: Hi-Plains Coach: Scott Stegman (7th year) 2008-2009 Record: 21-3, 10-0 in HPL Returning Starters: Mitchell Gaede (6-0, Sr., G); Jacob VanCampen (6-1, Sr., C). Returning lettermen: Brett Robinson (5-10, Sr., G); Matt Pfeifer (5-10, Sr., G); Brady Merz (5-8, Jr., G, transfer from Satanta); Trey DeLaRosa (6-0, Jr., C); Logan Singhisen (6-2, Jr., C). Other top prospects: Drew Winters (6-2, Sr., C); Nolan Gaede (5-10, Jr., G); Kyle Walck (5-9, Jr., G); Brendan Thomas (5-8, So., G); Andrew Homer (5-11, So., C/G).

Holcomb Lady Longhorns

Class: 3A

League: Hi-Plains

Coach: Kelly Snodgrass (4th year)

2008-2009 Record: 10-12, 6-4

Returning Starters: Ashley Baier(5-5, Sr., G); Breanna Gottschalk (5-10, Jr., F); Amy Stegman (5-6, Jr., G).

Other returner players: Danielle Asmus (5-5, Jr., G); Heidi Boyles (5-10, Jr., C); Mallory Komlofske (5-7, Jr., C); Madison Landwehr (5-7, Jr., G); Lauren Lohfink (5-7, Jr., C).