LAKIN — Lakin was the Tuesday night site for a battle between two of the top teams in the state.
No. 3 in Class 3A Lakin hosted the top team in Class 4A-II Holcomb in what started as a one-sided affair for the home team. But Holcomb proved to be the more dominant this night, as the Longhorns, down big in the first period, put their hooves to the pedal in the final three quarters for a 68-47 win.
Down 15-4 midway through the opening period, the ‘Horns went on what eventually became a 42-11 run, during which they held the Broncs to just four field goals over nearly 18 minutes.
The Broncs started out hot on both ends of the floor, using their full-court pressure and speed to force Holcomb into five turnovers, which Lakin converted into a 12-2 lead.
That’s when Holcomb coach Chad Novack called a timeout to discuss with his team what they needed to do to counter the Broncs' aggressive play.
“We weren’t fundamentally sound that first four minutes,” he said. “Credit Lakin for putting us in that situation, but once we took a deep breath and played our style of basketball, we got into our game.”
Following that timeout, the tide turned to the ‘Horns. Slowly, they whittled the lead until the 3:27 mark of period two, when Steven Crain put back an offensive rebound for a 26-24 lead.
They closed out the half on an 8-2 run, capped by two blocked shots by Kobe Dickson — one on a 3-point attempt.
They kept that momentum going into quarter number three, scoring 12 straight points to open the period, before Diego Davila hit consecutive shots around the 2-minute mark.
Lakin shot just 6 of 22 from behind the arc and made only 11 other field goals as they fell to 13-3 for the year.
On the other side, Holcomb was 24 of 50 from the field, with Dickson leading all scorers with 25 points, including 10 field goals, most under the rim as the ‘Horns took advantage of their 6-foot-10 post’s size advantage.
The big man also had 14 rebounds, helping his team win that battle, 33-10.
“That was a fun game for coaches, players, fans,” Novack said.
Just not so much in the first four minutes.
“We knew they were a great ball club,” he said of Lakin. “The first four minutes, they dictated how we were going to play. We let them speed us up. We didn’t do a very good job on the hedges and the perimeter.”
Novack said he could have called a time out sooner, but he wanted to see how his seniors would respond first.
“They never panicked. They settled in,” he said. “Gradually, we started going to our strength, which is inside.”
Once Holcomb established its inside game, things turned the Longhorns' way.
“Our defense picked up. Our communication picked up,” Novack said. “Just our overall execution was outstanding after that first four minutes.”
His team boxed out well on the boards — on both sides — with Lakin not getting a second-chance opportunity until the third quarter.
“One thing (Lakin) does extremely well is crash the boards, and I thought our block outs were outstanding pretty much the whole game,” Novack said. “Once we played Holcomb basketball, our kids executed extremely well. Our defense picked up. We were diving for loose balls."
Carter Blackburn came off the bench and added 13 points. Paden Cornelsen added nine as 10 ‘Horns scored.
Lakin had just five players score, led by Hunter Kirby with 15 and Davila with 14. The pair had been averaging 40 points a game.
“Our team played with a lot of energy, a lot of passion,” Novack said.
Lakin coach Nate Schmitt saw his team play about as well as they could play. Unfortunately, it didn’t extend past the first four minutes as much as he would have liked.
“I appreciate the start our boys got off to,” he said. “They were ready to play and made some shots.”
But Holcomb’s timeout was a major turning point.
“They picked up their defense and they did what it is that Holcomb does,” Schmitt said. “They played defense and made it really, really difficult for us to score.”
When the Broncs score, they can get into their pressure defense, he said. But when the shooting turned cold, that transition was tougher to make, and Holcomb took advantage of it.
“Then we had to try to find a way to stop 6-10 Kobe down there with a bunch of 5-10 guys,” he laughed. “That made it kind of tough.”
Playing a team the caliber of Holcomb can only help his team as they head towards the post-season, Schmitt said.
Holcomb (15-1) hosts Goodland Friday. Lakin will host Elkhart.