HOLCOMB — To say Holcomb got off to a great start would be an understatement.
In Friday’s second semifinal sub-state game, it was all Holcomb, all the time in a 63-27 route of Pratt to advance to Saturday night’s final against Larned. At stake? A trip to the state Class 4A-II tournament next week.
Friday’s semifinal was a rematch of last year’s state title game, which Holcomb won, 60-45, for its second title in three years.
In this game, though, Pratt didn’t even reach 15 points until midway into the third period.
That’s how dominating the Longhorns were.
Great start, great game, said Holcomb coach Chad Novack, motivated by last Friday’s final game of the regular season at Hugoton, where his team won but didn’t play as crisply as he wanted.
“We said when you get to the postseason, it doesn’t matter what your records are,” he said. “You have to play hard and play good basketball.”
From the start, his team bought into the defensive scheme, executed on offense and rebounded well.
“This was just a total team effort,” Novack said. “You could just see it, from the bench to the guys on the floor. Everyone was engaged and focused in.”
Focused, as in holding Pratt to just 27 points.
“We wanted to keep them kind of guessing,” Novack said about the different defensive sets Holcomb ran. “We’ve been working a little more on the 2-3 (zone), and it actually looked pretty good. That’s the most 2-3 zone I’ve let our kids play as a coach in all my years of coaching.”
This is the time of year teams need to step up and play their best, he said.
“There’s no reason to take plays off and not get after it,” Novack said. “There is no tomorrow if they lose, and the kids did a great job of staying focused.”
Holcomb was 6 of 9 from the field, including a pair of treys, in the first quarter, and the defense held the Greenbacks to one field goal and one free throw to take a 16-3 lead after eight minutes.
The Longhorns raised that advantage to 30-10 at halftime, 53-24 after three, and got the running clock a minute into the fourth period on Zeke Leyva’s second 3-pointer.
The Greenbacks scored their first points on a Brett Winsor putback two minutes into the game.
They scored on a Nathan Kolm 3 to open the second, but then they didn’t score again until two goals in the final seconds of the half.
By then, Holcomb had already taken a 29-6 lead on 12-of-25 shooting (48 percent) and a 20-8 rebounding advantage.
They started the second half just as hot, scoring on 11-of-13 possessions to take a 49-18 lead.
Nine ‘Horns got in the scorebook, with Leyva and Kobe Dickson both leading with 12 and Paden Cornelsen 11.
Dickson also had 12 rebounds for a double-double as Holcomb dominated that statistic, as well, 41-16, including 19 offensive boards.
Holcomb committed just eight turnovers (Pratt had 11).
And to cap it off, the defense held Pratt to just 10-of-37 shooting (27 percent).
About the only “low point” for Holcomb was the last few minutes of the first half, when the 'Horns went scoreless on seven straight possessions before getting one free throw at the end — “coasting,” Novack called it.
But Holcomb came out after intermission with energy to build the big lead they did.
“We talked about executing, getting a great shot every time, not just your average shot,” he said. “Work the ball and make them play defense a little longer than they did the first half.”
They wanted to win the first three minutes of the third quarter, and they did, Novack said.
Next up for Holcomb (20-1) is the upstart Larned Indians (10-11), who came back late against Hugoton to get the win Friday night.
“They’re a quality ball club. They got two or three really good guards,” Novack said. “They’re very similar to Pratt in a lot of ways.”
Holcomb will just have to play Holcomb basketball, he said.
“If we play solid and play hard basketball, good things will happen,” Novack said.