By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — The Holcomb Longhorns fell to Scott City on Tuesday, a game in which Holcomb played about as good a first quarter as coach Chad Novack could imagine.
The trouble was, they needed to play three more just like that to defeat a high-caliber team like the Beavers.
After that loss, Novack said his team would be working to improve the effort to four quarters, and the Longhorns did just that, picking up a 60-37 conference win over Ulysses on Friday in Holcomb.
Once again, Holcomb played an exceptional first quarter, jumping out to a 15-8 lead after the first period.
They threatened to retreat a bit early in the second, though, as the Beavers connected for three straight 3-pointers by Nathan Medina, Levi Degollado and Garrett Walters as Ulysses closed to within 22-17.
Then, the improved Longhorns remembered their recent training and went on an 11-0 run over the next five minutes before Ian Rudzik hit a trey for Ulysses.
By then, the demolition had started and Holcomb built on their confidence.
The Longhorn defense held Ulysses scoreless for another five-minute span and jumped out to a 51-27 lead after three.
That's a 28-7 message that the Longhorns might have it figured out.
Trey Sleep was 10 for 12 from the floor to lead the Longhorns with 21 points.
Dalton Gottschalk added 14 on 5-of-7 shooting.
Holcomb (7-2, 3-1) shot 54.5 percent from the field (24 of 44), while holding the Tigers to just 12 of 30.
Novack said this game didn't compare to Tuesday's, rather, it contrasted.
"No comparison. I thought these kids played their tails off tonight," he said. "They got in the passing lanes, won the 50-50 battles, rebounded the ball — did the little things good basketball teams do. When you do that, good things happen."
His team practiced extremely hard the past two days, and the dividends showed.
"Our kids responded well. They had a lot of energy tonight," Novack said.
Ulysses came out in the first half with a wide-spread offense. With a couple of players hurt, Chad Novack said, that didn't surprise him. About the only flaw in his team in the first quarter was not getting into the passing lanes.
"We did a lot better job in the second quarter and the start of the second half," he said, referring to stretches of turnovers against Ulysses that led to 16 Longhorn points.
"With our length, we get a lot of deflections, and that leads to a lot of turnovers and transition points for us. That's a credit to our defense," Novack said. "These guys have all the tools to play some good defense, and I thought they did. This was two teams playing really hard."
Most of Holcomb's points came from around the rim instead of guys settling for the 3-pointer, Novack said. It's another way his team needs to take advantage of its length.
For Ulysses (5-5, 2-3), it was a matter of not taking a lot of shots. They never attempted more than eight in a quarter until the fourth, when they shot just 10.
Medina was the Tigers' leading scorer with nine points, six of those on free throws. Degollado and Walters had eight and seven, respectively.
It was the increased energy and intensity that Novack hopes carries into Monday's tournament in Hillsboro, where they'll need every bit they can muster.
"This is a great lead up into an extremely tough tournament," he said. "We have to be ready. If we can carry over what we did tonight into next week, good things could happen."
Ulysses 6 14 7 10 -- 37
Holcomb 15 18 28 9 -- 60
Ulysses (5-4, 2-2)--Walters 3 0-0 7, Degollado 3 0-0 8, Nichols 1 0-0 2, Wiginton 2 1-1 5, Rudzik 1 1-4 4, Cantrelll 1 0-0 2, Medina 1 6-9 9. Totals 12-30 8-14 37.
Holcomb (6-2, 2-1)--Gottschalk 5 3-8 14, Tucker 3 1-2 7, Sleep 10 1-2 21, Rupp 1 0-0 2, Schmidt 1 0-1 2, Richmeier 1 1-1 3, Dortch 1 0-0 2, Van Cleave 2 2-3 7. Totals 22-44 8-17 60.
3-point goals--Ulysses 5-8 (Walters, Degollado 2, Rudzik, Medina), Holcomb 2-11 (Gottschalk, Van Cleave). Rebounds--Ulysses 16 (Medina 5), Holcomb 20 (Sleep 6). Turnovers--Ulysses 16, Holcomb 11. Fouled out--none. Total fouls--Ulysses 16, Holcomb 11. Technical fouls--none.
Holcomb girls 60, Ulysses 40
Even playing short-handed, Holcomb kept its season perfect with a 60-40 win over conference foe Ulysses on Friday in Holcomb.
On paper, the game might have looked like a typical Holcomb runaway. But despite the winning points for a team averaging nearly 70 a game, it looked very different played on a court.
Ulysses was down just nine points with 3:42 to play, but Holcomb went on a 16-7 run to close out the game.
Haley Heydman led the Lady Longhorns with 21 points, with all but three of those coming in the second half before she fouled out.
Taylor Deniston, who spent much of the second half on the bench in foul trouble, scored six of her 15 points in the final three minutes.
Kylee Amos scored 10 of her 14 points, and grabbed seven boards to keep the Longhorns ahead in the second quarter while her team was finding scoring difficult.
Still, with a 33-17 halftime lead, Holcomb seemed to be in the catbird seat. But the Tigers had other plans.
Heydman scored all eight of Holcomb's third-quarter points, while Ulysses clawed its way back to within 10 late in the period, thanks in part to seven turnovers against the Longhorns (21 on the night).
While Ulysses had trouble hitting field goals (17 of 62 for 27 percent), it was a three-quarter trap that seemed to give the Longhorns fits most of the evening.
Missing from the Holcomb lineup were post Jordan Jarnagin, nursing a concussion suffered Tuesday night, and Emily Ratliff, still working her way back from a hip injury.
Those two are key on press breaks, and without them, Holcomb had to rely on younger, less experienced players, said coach Kenton Tennal.
"So those three girls — Taylor, Kylee (Amos) and Haley — really stepped up tonight big time," he said. "They knew what they had to do tonight. At times, they tried to do too much, making passes when they shouldn't, but I couldn't be prouder of them."
Ulysses coach Tim Hofferber echoed those sentiments with his girls, especially with being able to keep the game close as late as they did.
"Defensively, I thought we did enough to give us a chance," he said. "But offensively, you've got to be able to hit shots inside. We made all those shots against Hugoton (in a win on Tuesday). That fits into the speed that we have and the hustle these girls put in."
The Tiger trap gave Holcomb fits because they exploited the holes left by the Longhorns foul trouble and injuries.
Getting down by as much as 16 early in the third quarter was the challenge, Hofferber said.
"Whenever you get down by that much, you have to have the little pieces go, and by the time we'd come down and cut it close, it seemed like we made a mistake, and there's no room for that," he said.
The win says something about the tenacity of his team, Tennal said, especially with the recent injuries.
Consider, also, that Heydman has been ill this week and still scored 21 points despite her labored breathing, Tennal added.
Deniston was in foul trouble for the second night this week, he said, "but when she was in, she was good."
It wasn't an easy win, but it was good, Tennal said.
"I aged about 10 years that game," he said. "I was so nervous."
Those nerves could be eased by getting his girls healthy, especially heading into the Hillsboro tournament Monday.
Ulysses takes on Garden City on the road Tuesday.
Ulysses 6 9 12 11 -- 40
Holcomb 17 16 8 19 -- 60
Ulysses (3-7, 2-3)--Gallegos 6 0-2 14, Price 4 0-2 8, Arnold 6 2-7 14, Branscum 0 0-2 0, Corral 2 0-0 4. Totals 18-62 2-13 40.
Holcomb (9-0, 4-0)--Engler 0 0-1 0, Heydman 6 8-12 21, Deniston 6 3-6 15, Amos 5 1-2 14, Harrington 3 0-0 6, Foreman 1 1-2 4. Totals 20-46 13-23 60.
3-point goals--Ulysses 2-12 (Gallegos 2), Holcomb 5-13 (Heydman, Amos 3, Foreman). Rebounds--Ulysses 35 (Arnold 17), Holcomb 33 (Amos 10, Heydman 8). Turnovers--Ulysses 21, Holcomb 21. Fouled out--Price, Heydman. Total fouls--Ulysses 21, Holcomb 14. Technical fouls--none.