It was the final game of a long regular season, with sub-state pairings already set in place for next week.
But with a 62-35 win over Hugoton Friday night, the Holcomb Longhorns wrapped up a perfect league record, and now it’s time for the next season to start, with a matchup with Pratt set in the sub-state opener Friday.
After a struggle in the first half, Holcomb turned into the team that has made the 'Horns the top in their class by putting together a patented, powerful second half.
“They were being really physical, both up front and down low,” Holcomb head coach Chad Novack said of the Eagles in the early going. “They were pretty handsy, and I thought maybe didn’t handle it very well at first.”
But Holcomb used a 21-8 third period to pull away in what had been a fairly tight — and low-scoring — game. The ‘Horns were 9 of 16 in that period, and the defense held the Eagles to just 3 of 16, with all eight of their points coming from Carlos Montiel.
It also meant the ‘Horns were on a 28-8 run since Hugoton tied the game late in the first half.
Novack's team wasn’t as strong with the ball to counter the Eagle punch at first, he said, and his guys were just being average on screens and passes.
“But once we settled in and played our basketball, we kind of took off there,” he said.
Four straight scores to open the fourth period gave Holcomb a 55-28 lead, before Mitchell Hamlin finally hit a field goal to stop to an 11-0 run.
The Longhorns had a 35-15 half to contrast with an unconventional first half. Holcomb only hit three field goals in the opening quarter, with the Eagles tying the game at 11 to end the period.
Hugoton got its first lead of the game when Carlos Montiel hit a field goal to put his team up 15-14, before Trey Gilbert hit back-to-back buckets. The Longhorns pulled away a bit late in the half, taking a 25-20 lead while shooting just 9 of 27 from the floor.
At halftime, Novack spoke to his team about why they’re No. 1 in their class, why Hugoton wanted to take them down on senior night, and challenged his team to match the intensity and cut down on turnovers.
They got things figured out and became the Holcomb team that is 19-1 (10-0 in league) and winners of 17 straight.
A 6-0 start to the third gave Holcomb a 31-20 lead, and then surged that to 42-26 on a Trey Gilbert trey with three minutes to play.
Kobe Dickson led all scorers with 26 points, including 10 of 11 from the free-throw line. Gilbert had 11 and Paden Cornelsen 10.
Holcomb out-rebounded Hugoton 50-26, with Dickson pulling down 17, including 10 on the offensive end. Montiel led Hugoton with 16 points before fouling out.
Holcomb will host Pratt in sub-state Friday, a team similar to Hugoton.
“They’ve got really quick guards who like to dribble-drive,” Novack said. “They’re very athletic. Their record isn’t really indicative of what kind of team they are because they had some injuries early and have been playing better of late.”
It’s also a rematch of the state championship game last year, when Holcomb knocked off the Greenbacks 60-45 to capture their second title in three years.
“We’re going to have to be really focused if we want to extend this (season) out another week,” Novack said.
Hugoton (10-10, 6-4) will face Larned in the other semifinal game.