Holcomb defends home court with twin wins over Colby Trojans.
By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — It would be clichÃ© to call Friday's win a sweetheart of a game for the Holcomb Lady Longhorns.
But it was pretty sweet as the No.-5 team in Class 3A took care of Colby 59-38 to pick up another win in the conference as they pursue a league title.
Holcomb had to overcome a somewhat sluggish first half before catching fire in the second half.
Leading just 28-20 at halftime, Holcomb dominated the offensive end and defended well in the third quarter to open that lead to 44-29.
They played a keep-away game for much of the fourth quarter to put the win on ice.
For Colby, it was their third game of the week, including a loss to Dodge City Thursday. It showed as they were just 7 of 25 from the floor in the first half.
But Holcomb shot 30 times and made just 8 in that same frame. The difference was free throws, where the Longhorns were 8 of 10 while the Eagles were just 4 of 6 in the first 16 minutes.
Neither team was very good from the floor in the first half, and Colby even took a brief lead (17-15) midway into the second period.
But the Longhorns finished the second quarter on a 13-3 run to take their eight-point halftime lead.
They carried that momentum into the second half, scoring on seven of their first 11 possessions, and eventually taking a 20-point lead in the final period.
Contrast the first half to a month ago when they led 35-14, and cruised to a 60-24 win. But coach Kenton Tennal pointed out that Colby played that game without senior Haileigh Shull, who Friday led her team with 18 points, 12 of those in the opening half to keep the Eagles close.
"That girl's good," he said. "We definitely could have done a better job on her."
Haley Heydman led the Longhorns with 23 points to go with the 28 she scored Tuesday against Lakin.
Taylor Deniston had 16 and Kylee Amos 10.
This game also marked the return of sophomore post Jordan Jarnagin after a few games out due to a concussion. After just one practice, she scored eight points, but more importantly, she gave the Longhorns a presence inside and allowed for more substitutions.
"It was nice to get her back out there. She did a pretty nice job for a first game back," Tennal said. "It's huge to get her back. You can't teach 5-11."
Rotating seven players is much easier than just six, he said, which is what his team has been doing during Jarnagin's absence.
The strong second half felt good, especially after a test against a tough Colby team, Tennal said.
"The second half we started to look better," he said. "The offense looked better. We held Shull to six points in the second half."
His 1-3-1 zone wasn't very effective early on, so Tennal had his team switch to man and his girls worked harder, which meant they played harder.
"They did a pretty good job getting all five starters back on the floor for the first time in a while," he said. "Molly (Harrington) is a good enough player to start, but she's more effective off the bench."
Holcomb (14-2 overall, 6-1 in league) takes on Garden City this evening in a make-up ArkRiver Rivalry game. Besides playing for the pride of Finney County, it's also important in the win-loss column when it comes to seeding for sub-state.
"Dropping that game at Hugoton gave us two losses and that really affected us not only for state rankings but sub-state. We can't afford another loss because that would almost guarantee we won't get the two-seed at sub-state," Tennal said.
"It's also important to the girls," he added. "I think both teams take it personally, and it's our house."
Colby 8 12 9 9 -- 38
Holcomb 12 16 16 15 -- 59
Colby (6-10, 2-5)--Terrell 2 0-0 4, Shull 6 5-7 18, Stephens 2 1-2 5, McKee 1 3-4 5, Strange 0 1-2 1, Giebler 2 0-0 5. Totals 13-46 10-15 38.
Holcomb (14-2, 6-1)--Jarnagin 2 4-6 8, Heydman 8 7-9 23, Deniston 7 1-1 16, Amos 3 1-2 10, Harrington 0 1-2 1. Totals 20-56 14-20 59.
3-point goals--Colby 2-10 (Shull, Giebler), Holcomb 5-16 (Deniston 2, Amos 3). Rebounds--Colby 20 (Stephens 8, Terrell 7, Shull 7), Holcomb 33 (Deniston 12). Turnovers--Colby 12, Holcomb 6. Fouled out--none. Total fouls--Colby 14, Holcomb 14. Technical fouls--none.
Holcomb 72, Colby 40
Like a nagging cold, Holcomb had trouble shaking Colby, at least for the first half of Friday night's game in Holcomb.
Maybe that's because both teams spent a lot of time at the free-throw line in the first two periods, with 28 attempts between them.
But then the second half got played, Holcomb revved it up a notch and they cruised to a 72-40 GWAC win.
The last time these two teams played, Holcomb led 38-12 at the half and held Colby to 25 points total.
This time, they led 36-25 at the break, but then the Longhorns opened the throttle on the offense, hit the brakes on defense and outscored the Eagles 36-15 in the second half, which included a running clock early in the fourth quarter.
Trey Sleep led Holcomb, the No.-5 team in Class 3A, with 17 points. Heath Tucker added 15, and freshman Conner VanCleave chipped in 14.
Holcomb also buried seven 3-pointers.
As a team, the Longhorns converted 26 field goals, while holding the Eagles to half that.
They also out-rebounded Colby 34-15 (18 offensive) and scored 16 points off Eagle turnovers.
It was a pretty good performance, said Holcomb coach Chad Novack.
"I thought we played pretty well the first half," he said. "We didn't shoot too well, but overall our kids played well."
The rebounds-to-turnovers ratio meant his team did a good job staying patient and taking care of the ball.
Colby played well early on, he noted, but his team just put together a more complete game.
The Eagles came out in a 1-3-1 zone and took away a number of Holcomb's weapons early on, Novack said, but his team adjusted, especially in the second half.
The Eagles had just one player in double figures, Cameron Brown, with 12, and they converted just 13-of-32 field goal attempts.
"The first half, we let them get in the paint too much. But by the second half, we did a good job of buckling down and keeping them out," Novack said.
The 6-foot-5 VanCleave was a huge part of that, pulling down eight rebounds to go with his seven field goals.
"He has a nose for the ball," Novack said. "He seems to be around the ball at all times. On offensive boards, he does a great job of crashing hard."
His guards do a good job of finding VanCleave and Sleep underneath, he noted.
The Longhorns (13-3) face Class 6A Garden City tonight in a make-up game, and Novack said he is treating this week with three games just like a sub-state.
"We've got games Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, so we're at our third step here," he said.
Garden City has been playing well of late and he knows they will play long, quick and athletic.
"Offensively they run a lot of what we run, a lot of pick and roll, a lot of transition basketball," he said. "I expect it to be a very good game and a very physical game."
Colby 12 13 9 6 -- 40
Holcomb 21 15 21 15 -- 72
Colby (2-13, 0-7)--Comfort 1 2-4 4, Brown 6 0-6 12, Whitfield 1 0-0 2, Cox 1 1-2 3, Ash. Russ 0 5-6 5, A. Russ 2 3-5 7, Bremenkamp 2 2-2 7. Totals 13-32 13-25 40.
Holcomb (13-3, 6-1)--Mongeau 1 0-0 3, Gottschalk 7-12 9, Tucker 5 3-3 15, Sleep 7 3-3 17, Stegman 1 0-0 3, Richmeier 1 0-0 3, Merz 3 0-0 8, VanCleave 7 0-0 14. Totals 26-57 13-18 72.
3-point goals--Colby 1-7 (Bremenkamp), Holcomb 6-22 (Mongeau, Tucker 2, Stegman, Richmeier, Merz 2). Rebounds--Colby 15 (Cox 3, Bremenkamp 3), Holcomb 34 (Sleep 8, VanCleave 8). Turnovers--Colby 14, Holcomb 8. Fouled out--none. Total fouls--Colby 18, Holcomb 21. Technical fouls--none.