By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — Any time the Great West Activities Conference's teams get together, anything can happen.
When these two teams played back in mid-December, the Holcomb girls had little trouble handling Hugoton, allowing the Lady Eagles just 34 total points.
Now, with sub-state just three weeks away, the Eagles were having no more of that, scoring 29 in the first half alone on their way to a 53-45 win over the Longhorns.
Playing with essentially the same lineup as in the first meeting, Hugoton rolled on the shoulders of the 3-point shooters (they hit five in the first half), a taller inside game with 6-0 Miranda Ramsey and 6-3 Nicole Kinser (32 combined points) and 23 Holcomb turnovers to pick up a big league win.
"This was a huge, huge win for us, especially on the road and especially against Holcomb," Hugoton coach Lee Gillen said. "I was really proud of our girls. Our effort was excellent from start to finish."
Holcomb, meanwhile, struggled in the first half, turning the ball over 13 times and only getting off 16 shots, many of them from the outside.
Things didn't go much better in the third quarter for Holcomb as they managed only seven points, victims of a 5-minute scoring drought.
Meanwhile Hugoton took advantage of Holcomb's low productivity and built a 42-29 lead before Holcomb converted a late field goal in the third.
Ramsey led the surge with 11 of Hugoton's 13 third-quarter points.
A second scoring slide by Holcomb early in the fourth period (over three minutes) helped the Eagles build a 46-33 lead, but the Longhorns wouldn't quit.
They outscored Hugoton 12-4 over the next three minutes to cut the lead down to five points, aided by Katie Pfeifer's and Taylor Deniston's 3-pointers, but that's as close as they could get.
In the end, it was Hugoton's inside height and zone defense that changed Holcomb's usual game plan of driving to the hole. Most of their 41 shot attempts were from outside, including 17 from outside the arc, with Pfeifer connecting four times.
Lack of penetration also put the Longhorns on the line just eight times, while Hugoton went 16-for-25.
"Holcomb's a good-shooting team, so our goal was to contest every shot," Gillen said That included six blocked shots, five by Kinser.
Offensively, Kinser hit her season average of 14 points, but it was Ramsey coming up strong with 21 points, including 10-for-11 at the line in the second half, that fired the Eagle offense.
In their first meeting, Ramsey scored just three points.
"Ramsey did a great job of taking it to the hole. This was by far her best game of the year," Gillen said. "She'll be the first to tell you it took the team to get her the ball, and they did that."
Gillen credits his team's aggressive zone defense with creating so few good looks for the Longhorns.
For Holcomb coach Kelley Snodgrass, this Hugoton squad was much improved since she saw them in December.
"They're tall and lanky. They guard well," she said.
Snodgrass said her team came out cold and resorted to an offensive that was not attacking, which is not Holcomb basketball.
"We attacked; they blocked a few shots. That's what they're supposed to do because they're taller," she said. "Then we just sat back on our heels and didn't attack."
The Holcomb team that cut the lead in the fourth quarter is the team Snodgrass wanted to see the entire game. Playing that Holcomb style just a few minutes a game, she said, isn't going to cut it.
A week off probably affected her team, she added. The Longhorns got rusty instead of hungry to play, she said, and that's something they'll need to fix before their next game.
Holcomb (10-6, 5-3) will next face top-ranked and undefeated Southwestern Heights, a team they will see in sub-state.
Hugoton (10-5, 3-3) has now won five straight games and will face Scott City on Friday.
Hugoton 17 12 13 11 -- 53
Holcomb 13 11 7 14 -- 45
Hugoton (53) — Hoskinson 2 0-0 6, Parsons 3 3-6 11, Mueller 0 1-2 1, Kinser 5 1-1 11, Ramsey 5 11-13 21, Sosa 1 0-0 3. Totals 16 16-22 53.
Holcomb (45) — Pfeifer 5 0-1 14, Mongeau 3 2-2 8, Deniston 5 3-4 14, Amos 1 0-0 2, Pena 3 1-2 7. Totals 17 6-9 45.
3-point goals — Hugoton 5 (Hoskinson 2, Parsons 2, Sosa 1), Holcomb 5 (Pfeifer 4, Deniston 1).
Holcomb 63, Hugoton 44
After over a week off, Holcomb coach Chad Novack was looking forward to seeing how his team would play, especially in a league game.
He didn't need to worry as the Longhorns defeated Hugoton 63-44 in a Great West Activities Conference contest.
Holcomb broke open a tight game with an 18-6 third quarter to dispense of its league rivals.
Holcomb grabbed a 13-8 lead after the first break, holding the Eagles scoreless for almost four minutes.
But James Persinger, averaging 14 points a game, scored nine points for the Eagles in the second period to keep the Eagles close at the half, 30-25.
Shane Bennett came up huge for Holcomb in the third period, scoring eight of his 14 points.
Persinger sat most of the quarter after a technical foul, during which time the Eagles couldn't find a replacement scorer.
Persinger led all scorers with 23 points, but Hugoton had no other player with more than six.
Holcomb, meanwhile, got 15 points from Tyler LaSalle, the 14 from Bennett, and scoring from seven other players. The Longhorns were 46 percent from the floor and converted 21-of-35 free throws.
All in all, it was a good night for the Longhorns, and a tough one for the Eagles, who were looking to pick up their 10th win on the season.
Novack was pleased with the effort from his team, especially after the 10-day layoff.
"You expect a little bit of rust. The first half we let Persinger kind of do his thing, and one of our focuses was to try to limit him," he said.
But in the second half, the Longhorns did a better job stopping Persinger and the Eagles' penetration, which led to Holcomb running a better, more flowing offense.
Getting the ball inside to players like Bennett helps open up the offense outside, Novack said, and his team got that going.
Hugoton, now 9-6, needs to find a way to play all four quarters, coach Jason Hajek said. His team has won nine games for a reason, and that's the hustle and intensity they showed in the second quarter when they outscored Holcomb 18-17.
"It's been a roller coaster struggle all year long until we learn to play for all four quarters," he said.
The Eagles got 36 shots but turned the ball over 20 times.
"That's been our M.O. all year," Hajek said. "You're not going to beat anybody turning the ball over that much. They did a good job pressuring us."
The lack of scoring depth tonight was also a credit to the Longhorn defense, he added, making his players uncomfortable from the floor.
They'll have a couple days to work on things before hosting top-ranked Scott City on Friday.
Holcomb is now 11-5 (11-1 since its 0-4 start) and look to ride that momentum into the last part of the season.
"We still have a long ways to go," Novack said. "But on the upside they're starting to flow and really buy into it."
The Longhorns look to continue their run Friday at Southwestern Heights.
Hugoton 8 17 6 12 -- 43
Holcomb 14 16 18 15 -- 63
Hugoton (43) — C. Frederick 2 0-0 4, Vela 0 1-2 1, Crawford 3 0-0 6, Mora 1 0-0 2, Persinger 9 4-7 22, Davis 0 2-2 2, Scott 2 2-2 6. Totals: 17 9-13 43.
Holcomb (63) — Cox 0 4-7 4, LaSalle 4 6-6 15, Hernandez 1 0-0 2, Homer 1 3-8 5, Tucker 1 2-6 4, Gilbert 1 5-6 7, Thomas 3 0-0 7, Bennett 7 0-0 14, Ramsey 2 1-2 5. Totals: 20 21-35 63.
3-point goals ¬-- Hugoton 0, Holcomb 2 (LaSalle 1, Thomas 1).