By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — Following the last time Holcomb lost to Scott City, Ulysses handed the Longhorns a heartbreaking defeat.
After that, they won eight straight before falling to the Beavers again on Tuesday.
Friday night, Holcomb made sure history did not repeat itself, as it took care of Ulysses, 57-46 in a Great West Activities Conference matchup.
Shane Bennett led Holcomb with 16 points and Heath Tucker added 12 to lead a balanced Longhorn offense that shot 23-of-53 from the floor, 10-of-14 from the free throw line and held the Tigers in check for small chunks of the game before pulling away in the final period.
The game started out as tight as the previous one, with the score tied at 11 after eight minutes. After a 16-13 lead with 5:34 remaining in the half, Ulysses went cold, not scoring again until two minutes had passed in the third quarter.
Holcomb, however, had just a 25-16 lead at that point. In the next 1:32, the Tigers cut the lead to 29-28, scoring on five straight possessions.
Ulysses fell back 39-32 as it went cold again to end the third period, but the Tigers got within four with just over a minute played in the fourth.
That’s when Holcomb’s defense stepped up, limiting the Tigers to just seven points the rest of the way. Tucker, Bennett and company finished them off on the offensive end, going on a 14-4 run before a late Ulysses 3-pointer ended the game.
For Holcomb coach Chad Novack, the win was a good way to avenge the earlier loss to the Tigers, when he watched his team play a sub-par game.
This time around, it was a much better effort.
“Our defense played really well for the first half, and for a couple minutes here and there in the second half,” Novack said. “In the second half, we did a better job of executing our offense and getting open looks.”
Novack was alluding to the previous meeting, when Holcomb came out of halftime cold, scoring just five points in the third. This time, they got 18.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” he said. “Ulysses plays extremely hard.”
When Ulysses ran a zone defense, Holcomb looked to get the ball inside, Novack said, and his team did a good job with executing that. Good defense and tough rebounding on that end also helped, as the Longhorns limited the Tigers to just three second-chance shots.
For Ulysses coach Nathan Novack, the stretches of no scoring killed the momentum his Tigers used to defeat Holcomb the last time.
“There was a stretch where we had some shots and made some plays. We had momentum and energy,” he said. “Then all of a sudden we gave up some easy shots and that sucked it right out of us.”
Kyler Barlow led Ulysses with 12 points and Nathan Medina added 10.
Tregg Rodriguez didn’t play (knee injury), taking away a guy who’s been scoring of late.
His status for sub-state is still uncertain, but the Tigers have 10 days off before that next game.
Novack is certain, though, that Ulysses has the No.-2 seed locked up, which puts them opposite of Andale in sub-state, a good position to be in.
Holcomb has one last game Tuesday in Hugoton. It will keep his team in game shape as they look to host a sub-state game the following week.
“Next week’s going to be big for us. We’ll continue to work on our game. These kids have worked extremely hard the last week especially and are starting to get excited for post-season play, but have to focus on Tuesday first,” Novack said.
The Longhorns will be without Corey Roth (knee) and Brent Komlofske (sickness), two of the seven seniors honored on Senior Night.
“We just can’t seem to get everyone healthy at the same time,” Novack said. “But these kids have battled all season and done a good job of sticking together.”
Ulysses 11 5 16 14 — 46
Holcomb 11 10 18 18 — 57
Ulysses (9-11, 5-5) — Stringham 1 0-1 2, Walters 1 2-4 5, Barlow 4 3-4 12, Degallado 2 0-0 5, Meierhoff 3 1-2 8, Annis 2 0-2 4, Medina 3 4-5 10. Totals 16-38 10-18 46.
Holcomb (15-4, 6-3) — Tucker 5 2-2 12, LaSalle 3 0-0 6, Hernandez 2 0-1 4, Cox 2 3-3 8, Gilbert 3 0-0 6, Richmeier 2 0-0 4, Bennett 6 4-6 16, Ramsey 0 1-2 1. Totals 23-53 10-14 57.
3-pt. goals — Ulysses 4-14 (Walters, Barlow, Degallado, Meierhoff), Holcomb 1-9 (Cox). Rebounds — Ulysses 25 (Annis 6), Holcomb 28 Bennett 9, Tucker 5, Gilbert 4). Turnovers — Ulysses 14, Holcomb 7. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Ulysses 17, Holcomb 20.