HOLCOMB — After six weeks of bus rides and “visitor” designations on scoreboards, the Holcomb Longhorns looked forward to playing at home.
Hoping to ride the momentum of a 4-3 road stint, the girls basketball team was not able to capitalize on the home court, falling to Hugoton, 46-39, on Tuesday night.
The Eagles rode the hot shooting in the second half from Johanna Rawlins, who scored 15 of her game-high 18 points to lead her team.
Rebecca Johnson added 12.
A low-scoring affair early, the two teams made a game of it in the final period.
Trailing 30-21 heading into the third and falling behind, 34-21, the ‘Horns staged a comeback, that included three straight Eboni Sapien field goals, two following turnovers she created.
They closed to within six points twice with under three minutes to play, but a free throw contest down the stretch proved the difference.
Still, Holcomb had one more run, cutting the lead to 44-37, when Sapien got her fifth steal of the quarter and converted with 37 seconds to play, the ‘Horns’ final score.
Holcomb started as the more aggressive team, taking a 9-5 lead late in the first period and forcing eight Eagles’ turnovers.
But a Laney Hoskinson 3-ball, banked off the backboard late in the quarter seemed to portend a momentum shift, which it did as Hugoton went on a 9-2 run in the second before Holcomb countered — but the Eagles had a 17-15 halftime lead.
The teams combined for nine-of-38 shooting in that half, but Hugoton was able to improve in the third quarter, burying five field goals to Holcomb’s one to take a 30-21 break heading into the fourth.
Sapien and Britnie Novack had 11 points to pace Holcomb.
For Hugoton’s first-year head coach, Emmanuel Adigun, it was a good win and a good test for his girls who didn’t play lights out on offensive.
“Defensively, we sped them up in the half-court set," Adigun said. "I felt like we had them shoot the ball more on average than some of them are used to. We wanted to get some of their kids who don’t shoot the ball very much taking a lot of shots.”
His taller team did a good job defending the inside, as well.
“I thought our bigs did a good job in the paint, for the most part,” Adigun said.
That includes the play of Rawlins, who came alive with six field goals in the second half, many of them on an unorthodox-looking rolling hook to her left.
The senior hasn’t been asked to do a lot of scoring in the past, Adigun said, but this year they’ve needed her to do just that.
“We’ve had to develop her mind frame to be more of a scoring mindset,” he said. “She’s gotten pretty good with the unorthodox, so we just try to ride the wave.”
Hugoton (7-6) was 19 of 27 from the foul line, while the ‘Horns were just 10 of 21.
For Holcomb coach Nathan Novack, this was a game his girls had in reach, but the mistakes caught up to them.
Still, it was a great defensive effort.
“I’m proud of them for that,” he said. “Our game plan, defensively, was good — our intensity, our press, our half-court press.”
The break down occurred when his team didn’t rotate on defense quickly enough, and Hugoton was able to exploit that.
That defense did force 25 Hugoton turnovers, though. The offense failed to take advantage, Novack said.
“It was one of those nights where the defense got after it and we played really hard but we couldn’t get the shots to fall,” he said. “And we still made a game out of it."