Longhorns repel comeback attempt to beat Kingman, 65-57, move on to Class 3A sub-state championship.
By KEVIN THOMPSON
CIMARRON — Holcomb knew it was in for a fight in Thursday's sub-state semifinal contest against the Kingman Eagles.
Just how tough, they weren't sure.
The Longhorns have also been on a tear, winning nine straight to earn the top seed leading into the Class 3A sub-state tournament in Cimarron.
At this stage, nobody has anything to lose, and Kingman showed that, battling the Longhorns tough all the way; but, it was Holcomb who advanced to the title game on Saturday with a 65-57 win.
Holcomb struggled early and led just 25-23 at halftime, but they came on strong offensively in the second half, shooting 65 percent (13-of-20 field goals) and hitting 13-of-20 free-throw attempts to hold off a tenacious Eagle squad that cut the lead to just two points in the waning moments.
Holcomb held a 58-48 lead with 1:18 to play when Kingman's Tyler Garrison hit three-consecutive treys, his only field goals of the night, to pull the Eagles to within two points with 40 seconds to play.
But four clutch free throws from Dalton Gottschalk and a layup from Blake Richmeier sealed the win for the Longhorns.
Gottschalk hit 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter, and he led the team in scoring with 21 points.
Heath Tucker and Trey Sleep, Holcomb's leading scorers, had just a field goal apiece in the first half, but they came on strong and finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
At halftime, coach Chad Novack said he challenged Sleep to be more aggressive and demand the ball, which he did. Tucker did a better job of finding gaps in the second half and creating things. Both of those helped get Kingman out of their zone.
Kingman played a stifling zone defense in the first half, and Holcomb had trouble penetrating. They held Holcomb to just four field goals that weren't 3-pointers.
Second half, different story.
"We knew that if we could get them out of their zone, we'd have an advantage if they had to go man," Novack said. "Once we got them to do that, we had the advantage."
It was halftime advice talk that got Holcomb back on track, Novack said.
"We just talked about keeping the ball at the top of the key all night long instead of making them shift," he said. "In the second half, we did a better job of making them shift, which got us more open looks."
Once out of the zone, Kingman left gaps that the Longhorns found, converting 12 shots around the lane.
"That's where we excel, when we get them out of their defense," Novack said. "We capitalized on that."
Things looked good early on for Holcomb as they scored a bunch in a hurry. They went on a 12-2 run in under three minutes to take a 12-4 lead, but they led just 15-10 at the quarter break.
Cheney clogged the inside on defense and drove the lane on offense in the second quarter to take a brief lead (16-15) before Holcomb came back to take the narrow lead at halftime, thanks in part to back-to-back 3s by Christian Merz and an inbound layup from Calen Rupp, followed by a pair of Gottschalk free throws.
That all happened in the span of just under two minutes, but Holcomb didn't score the final three minutes of the half.
Turnovers hurt Holcomb as they committed nine, but those only led to three points on free throws to keep Kingman from mounting a run.
The third quarter was kinder to the Longhorns as they hit 8-of-14 shots and only turned the ball over once, scoring eight straight at one point and finishing with a 43-36 lead before their final-quarter stand.
Besides his 21 points, Gottschalk also had a number of assists to the inside shooters in the second half and finished with 11 boards.
"He had a great game," Novack said. "He did a good job handling the ball for us, but the big thing was hitting key free throws for us, something he's been struggling with all year. Tonight he really stepped up and hit some shots for us."
Tucker said the key at intermission was Novack talking about Kingman's zone defense.
"He told us to stop being so complacent with it and start attacking the gaps," Tucker said. "We started setting ball screens up top, and once we started getting to the middle, it opened up everything else."
Cody New led all scorers with 23 points, driving to the basket and getting Holcomb in foul trouble.
"He's probably the quickest kid I've ever played against," Tucker said. "Luckily, I wasn't the one having to guard him or I'd probably foul out."
As it was, he and Sleep had four fouls each.
"We knew he was going to be good and going to be quick," Novack said of New. "He's a tough matchup. But I thought Calen did a good a good job on him."
Holcomb will play Cheney (16-5) in the title game at 7:30 Saturday night. The Cardinals defeated Garden Plain 63-46 in the first semifinal game.
The winner of Saturday's title game will move on to the state tournament, which begins March 13 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Tucker said this game showed them how tough it is at this stage.
"We found out you can't take any game for granted or you're going to lose and go home," he said. Holcomb won't let that happen, he said.
Kingman 10 13 13 21 -- 57
Holcomb 15 10 18 22 -- 65
Kingman (15-7)--New 7 8-11 23, Packard 3 0-0 6, Garrison 4 2-2 13, Bradshaw 2 2-2 8, Bangert 1 0-0 3, Anderson 2 0-2 4. Totals 19-45 12-17 57.
Holcomb (19-3)--Gottschalk 5 10-12 21, Tucker 5 3-5 14, Sleep 6 1-4 13, Rupp 3 0-0 8, Richmeier 1 0-0 2, Merz 2 1-2 7, VanCleave 0 0-1 0. Totals 22-43 15-24 65.
3-point goals--Kingman 7-17 (New, Garrison 3, Bradshaw 2, Bangert), Holcoomb 6 17 (Gottschalk, Tucker, Rupp 2, Merz 2). Rebounds--Kingman 22 (Bradshaw 6), Holcomb 26 (Gottschalk 9). Fouled out--none. Total fouls--Kingman 22, Holcomb 18. Technical fouls--none.
Garden Plain 15 4 11 16 -- 46
Cheney 19 13 15 16 -- 63
Garden Plain (10-12)--Milford 4 1-1 9, Doyle 4 0-0 8, Puetz 2 2-4 6, Joplin 1 0-0 2, Hageman 2 1-1 6, Thimesch 2 2-2 4, Becker 4 1-4 9, Ledy 0 1-2 1, Fassbender 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 9-16 46.
Cheney (16-5)--Grover 0 2-2 2, Wheelock 5 2-5 12, Patterson 5 7-11 17, Hill 3 1-2 7, Amsink 7 1-2 15, Heck 2 3-3, Schomacker 1 1-2 3. Totals 23 17-27 63.