ULYSSES — After a somewhat slow first half Friday night, the host Ulysses Tigers girls came to life in the second as they cruised to a 51-34 conference win over visiting Holcomb.
Ulysses, ahead just 18-15 at intermission, outscored the Longhorns 51-34 in the closing quarters to get its ninth win of the season and fourth in league play.
The Tigers used a 21-9 third period to pull away, thanks greatly to three 3-pointers by Gina Ballesteros, who had just five free throws in the first half. The junior finished the game with 20 points to lead all scorers.
The first quarter was not kind to Holcomb, which committed 10 turnovers and scored just six points.
But the 'Horns crept back into contention in the second, holding the Tigers to two field goals early and cutting the lead to 16-15 late in the period on a Taylor Sleep field goal, before Ulysses closed with a pair of free throws.
Ulysses allowed just three field goals in the third, as the Tigers built a 39-22 lead after three.
The Ulysses defense didn’t allow another ‘Horn bucket until Sleep hit a layup at 3:34 in the fourth, following an Eboni Sapien steal and score, but the Tigers still held a 47-29 at that point.
Darien Mader was Holcomb’s leading scorer with nine points. Madi Ruda added seven before fouling out.
For Ulysses coach Tim Hofferber, the overall defense added with the offensive surge in the second half was what he expects from his Tigers (9-6, 4-2).
“In the second half, the difference was not just the ball going in, but our spacing on offense was better and it seemed like we weren’t trying as hard,” he said. “We didn’t try to rush things. There was more overall focus.”
Hats off to the defense, too.
“I thought we played really hard defense,” Hofferber said. “We took advantage of our size.”
Holcomb does a good job of carving out space inside, he said, making it difficult to get rebounds, but his girls did a good job matching, if not surpassing them to gain the edge.
“I though my bigs matched their physicality better than we have been,” he added. “And our rotations defensively were better tonight than they have been the whole year.”
Ballesteros’ play was notable, as well, Hofferber said.
“She’s so unselfish. When she gets determined and she gets on a little run and in a rhythm, she is a very hard person to keep from scoring,” he said.
Holcomb (8-8, 1-5) will travel to Lakin Tuesday. Ulysses will host Dodge City.