By BRETT MARSHALL
HOLCOMB — It had been tough enough for the Holcomb Longhorns boys to finish their regular season with consecutive road losses.
It did little to soothe coach Chad Novack that the losses were to Great West Activities Conference rivals Scott City and Ulysses.
So when his team struggled out of the driveway of Monday night's Class 3A sub-state quarterfinal contest against Phillipsburg, Novack called timeout less than four minutes into the game with the Longhorns trailing the No. 6-seeded Panthers by four.
His lecture apparently got the attention of his team as the Longhorns (14-7) went on a 22-9 scoring spree to finish out the first quarter to take a 9-point lead at the end.
That set the wheels in motion for the Longhorns, who followed that with two more strong quarters, resulting in a 74-47 romp.
The victory puts the Longhorns into Thursday's semifinal in Scott City against Norton, a 62-52 Monday winner over Southwestern Heights. In other quarterfinal boys action, it was Scott City rolling over Goodland, 70-35, and Lakin handing Cimarron a 52-32 setback.
Thursday's semifinals will pair the Longhorns and Norton at 6 p.m. while Scott City takes on Lakin at 7:30 p.m.
Novack said he thought his team's early struggles came from the typical postseason jitters.
"The slow start I think came from just having the nerves hit us," Novack said. "Once we calmed down I thought we played well."
The Panthers' athleticism bothered the Longhorns early, but once Novack made adjustments, his team settled into a strong defensive effort the rest of the way. Phillipsburg was guilty of 19 turnovers while the Longhorns lost the ball just 10 times, and only three of those in the first half.
"I thought we did a good job of eliminating their penetration after the start," Novack said. "We were able to get our hands in the passing lane and then we were able to get some easy baskets."
The up-tempo offense was clicking for the Longhorns in this game as they went on big runs, with scoring advantages of 19-8 and 17-7 in the second and third periods, staking themselves to a commanding 64-34 lead.
This prompted the 30-point mercy rule for continuous running clock to start in the fourth quarter.
"We wanted to get out and run and I thought we did a good job of running out offense when the break wasn't there," Novack said.
Novack also had to be pleased with the fact that he got balanced scoring from his players, both from the outside with Tyler LaSalle (17 points) and Heath Tucker (15 points) and inside with Max Ramsey and Shane Bennett, who scored 10 points each. Ramsey was big on the boards, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds for a double-double performance as the 'Horns won the board battle, 48-32.
"I think as the game went on, we just played with more confidence," Novack said. "I thought we did a good job of crashing the boards in the second half. We were limiting them to one shot. The transition defense wasn't very good early, but after that I thought we did a good job against them."
For the game, the Longhorns connected on 31-of-69 field goals for 44.9 percent shooting from the field, including 5-of-12 from 3-point range (41.6 percent). About the only downside was their free throw shooting where they were 7-of-15 at the charity stripe. Phillipsburg, meanwhile, connected on just 16-of-45 field goals (35.5 percent), and just 3-of-12 from behind the arc (25.0 percent) and were a cool 12-of-26 at the free-throw line.
Sean Newlan, who was 6-of-9 from the field, finished with a game-high 19 points for the Panthers (8-13).
Phillipsburg 19 8 7 13 -- 47
Holcomb 28 19 17 10 -- 74
Phillipsburg (8-13) — Sage 0-0 0-0 0, Newlan 6-9 6-10 19, Ellis 1-2 1-2 3, Derr 1-9 0-0 2, Ratzlaff 1-3 0-0 2, Means 0-1 0-0 0, Juenemann 0-0 0-3 0, Dusin 2-4 0-0 4, Crist 1-4 1-2 4, Sauer 3-9 0-0 6, Chestnut 0-0 0-0 0, Wickham 1-4 4-10 7. Totals 16-45 12-27 47.
Holcomb (14-7) — Cox 1-4 0-0 2, LaSalle 7-16 0-0 17, Hernandez 2-9 0-0 4, Homer 3-7 0-1 6, Tucker 7-13 0-2 15, Jarnagin 0-0 0-0 0, C. Roth 0-0 0-0 0, Gilbert 3-3 1-2 7, Thomas 1-2 0-0 3, Komlofske 0-0 0-0 0, Bennett 4-9 2-3 10, Ramsey 3-6 4-7 10. Totals 31-69 7-15 74.
3-point goals--Phillipsburg 3-12 (Newlan 1-1, Derr 0-4, Ratzlaff 0-1, Means 0-1, Dusin 0-1, Crist 1-3, Wickham 1-1), Holcomb 5-12 (Cox 0-1, LaSalle 3-8, Tucker 1-2, Thomas 1-1). Rebounds--Phillipsburg 32 (Dusin 5), Holcomb 48 (Ramsey 10). Turnovers--Phillipsburg 19, Holcomb 10. Fouls--Phillipsburg 15, Holcomb 19. Fouled out--Phillipsburg (Crist). Technical fouls — none.