By KEVIN THOMPSON
ULYSSES — Fresh off its win Tuesday against top rival Scott City, the Holcomb Longhorns were riding a 6-game winning streak, playing their best ball of the season.
That win put them atop the Great West Activities Conference.
The Tigers, meanwhile, were mired in a nine-game losing streak dating back to Jan. 10, leaving them near the bottom of the league.
No miracle story this game, however, as Holcomb won in businessman like fashion with a 62-37 triumph over Ulysses.
It didn't take the 'Horns long to establish dominance. They jumped out to a 20-7 first-quarter lead on 9-of-12 shooting.
They increased that to 36-16 by halftime, holding the Tigers to 6-of-26 shooting for the half.
Heath Tucker led the Longhorns with 17 points. Dalton Gottschalk added 12 and Blake Richmeier 11. Conner VanCleave just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Tregg Rodriguez led the Tigers with 10 points, and Nathan Medina had seven before fouling out.
When these two teams squared off in Holcomb just over a month ago, the Longhorns had few problems in a 60-37 win.
That M.O. continued as the Longhorns, ranked seventh in Class 3A, dominated most categories on this night.
They shot 26 of 43 (60 percent), grabbed 25 rebounds, and committed just six turnovers.
Ulysses, on the other hand, was just 14 of 45 from the field (4 of 15 from long range), grabbed 23 boards and committed 11 turnovers.
For Holcomb coach Chad Novack, this was a solid effort from a team that is looking to win its first GWAC title and secure the top seed in its Class 3A sub-state.
"Our kids did a good job of keeping focus tonight," Novack said. "We did a lot of good things on transition, got some easy buckets."
It was defensive pressure that created those chances, Novack said, something his team works hard to do.
"We're in position to anticipate, and we did a good job with that," he said.
Holcomb was playing without junior Trey Sleep (16 points a game), who injured a shoulder in Tuesday's game and sat out Friday just as a precaution.
The rest of the team stepped up, Novack said, as 10 Longhorns got in the scorebook.
"They did a great job of spreading the ball," he said of the balance. "That's something they've done all year. They look for each other and look for the guy when he's open."
At times Holcomb even played with two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors.
"They didn't miss a beat," Novack said. "They did a great job with the little things."
On the other side, Ulysses coach Nathan Novack saw the effort from his team, but this night the shots just weren't falling.
"Our kids get good looks and work the ball well," he said. "We were just unable to make those shots."
Ulysses scored just six points on second-chance opportunities.
The Tigers will travel to Colby on Thursday for a make-up game before traveling to sub-state in McPherson the week of March 3.
Tuesday's game for Holcomb against Hugoton is a chance to wrap up a league title, one of the Longhorns' goals to start the season, Chad Novack said.
"We're one game away from that. We come in focused and prepare on Monday. We should be okay," he said.
A win also guarantees a top seed in sub-state.
"These kids have come a long ways this year. They work hard and keep getting better and better," Novack said.
Holcomb 20 16 15 11 -- 62
Ulysses 7 9 9 12 -- 37
Holcomb (16-3, 8-1)--Gottschalk 6 0-2 12, Tucker 7 2-2 17, Rupp 1 0-0 2, Jarnagin 1 0-2 2, Stegman 0 1-2 1, Richmeier 5 0-0 11, Merz 1 0-0 3, Ramsey 1 0-0 2, Dortch 0 3-4 3, VanCleave 4 0-0 9. Totals 26-43 6-12 62.
Ulysses (5-13, 2-7)--Rodriguez 4 0-0 10, Walters 1 0-0 2, Barlow 1 0-0 2, Nichols 1 0-0 2, Wiginton 1 0-2 3, Rudzik 1 2-2 5, Borthwick 2 0-0 4, Medina 2 3-4 7, Erives 1 0-0 2. Totals 14-45 5-8 39.
3-point field goals--Holcomb 4-13 (Tucker, Richmeier, Merz, VanCleave), Ulysses 4-15 (Rodriguez 2, Wiginton, Rudzik). Rebounds--Holcomb 25 (VanCleave 10, Tucker 7), Ulysses 23 (Medina 8). Turnovers--Holcomb 6, Ulysses 11. Fouled out--Medina. Total fouls--Holcomb 13, Ulysses 15. Technical fouls--none.
Holcomb 60, Ulysses 31
Something about playing in Ulysses seems to get in the heads of the Holcomb girls.
Coach Kenton Tennal was concerned about facing the Lady Tigers on their home court.
For the first quarter, his concerns were justified, but the Lady Longhorns settled into their environment after that as they won their sixth straight game with a 60-31 victory over Ulysses in a Great West Activities Conference matchup.
That sets up a contest Tuesday at Holcomb against Hugoton, tied with the Longhorns atop the league standings. Hugoton's girls just avoided a major upset on Friday, edging Goodland 41-39.
The first period was tighter than Tennal wanted, but not unexpected.
Holcomb committed an uncharacteristic eight turnovers in the opening quarter as they held a 12-11 lead after eight minutes.
They went on a 15-1 run in the second quarter and held a 29-16 advantage by the break, holding Ulysses to just five field goals in the entire first half.
Holcomb threatened to put the game away in the third, going up by 20 at one point. The Tigers clawed back to within 14, but it was the closest they would come.
"We never did get a good flow going," Tennal said. "Ulysses plays hard. They've got some athletic ability. They crash the boards hard."
The Ulysses aggressiveness caused 20 Holcomb turnovers. The only other time that has happened to the Longhorns this season was a loss to Hugoton.
Tennal said he talked with his team all week about trying to match the Tigers' enthusiasm, but they let up at times. But his team understands they'll have to play much harder as sub-state approaches.
"Our girls played hard, especially down the stretch," he said. "We just have to do a better job taking care of the ball. We felt like we had to force it into the post instead of work the ball around."
Holcomb shot 22 of 42 from the floor.
Taylor Deniston had 18 points, Haley Heydman 15 and Kylee Amos 10 to pace the Longhorns.
Ulysses out-rebounded Holcomb 29-27, but they only converted 10 of 44 shots (22 percent), and against good competition, that just won't cut it, coach Tim Hofferber said.
"I'm really proud of our girls," he said. "Our fundamentals have gotten better. We're still learning how to be shooters, but we were competing."
Carolina Gallegos led the Tigers with 12 points, shooting 16 of the team's 22 free throws.
"She's done that a lot this year," Hofferber said of Gallegos' efforts to draw fouls. "It really helps us a lot."
What Tennal described as Tiger athleticism is what Hofferber calls his team's strength.
"We just need to make more shots," the Tiger coach said. "But we get compliments about how hard we play. They want to get out there and compete and want to get better."
Tuesday's Holcomb-Hugoton matchup comes with a lot riding on it.
It's the No.-3 teams in Class 3A and 4A-Div. II facing each other.
A win over Hugoton means a league title for the Longhorns and the top seed in the Class 3A sub-state the following week, which means hosting a first round game.
His girls will come ready to play, Tennal said.
"We just need to get back to the business of practice," he said. "First thing, take care of the ball. We need to get under control. We'll be fine."
Holcomb 12 17 19 12 -- 60
Ulysses 11 5 14 1 -- 31
Holcomb (17-2, 8-1)--Ratliff 1 0-0 3, Jarnagin 2 4-6 8, Heydman 7 1-5 15, Deniston 7 2-2 18, Amos 3 2-2 10, Harrington 2 0-0 6. Totals 22-42 9-15 60.
Ulysses (6-13, 3-6)--Gallegos 2 8-16 12, Price 3 0-0 6, Groomer 1 0-0 2, Arnold 3 1-4 7, Branscum 0 2-2 2, Balderrama 1 0- 2. Totals 10-44 11-22 31.
3-point field goals--Holcomb 7-18 (Ratliff, Deniston 2, Amos 2, Harrington 2), Ulysses 0-11.
Rebounds--Holcomb 27 (Jarnagin 10, Deniston 9), Ulysses 29 (Arnold 10). Turnovers--Holcomb 20, Ulysses 17. Fouled out--Pfingsten. Total fouls--Holcomb 14, Ulysses 13. Technical fouls--none.