HOLCOMB — The only thing certain in Friday’s matchup was that Holcomb and Dalhart, Texas, were going to bomb from downtown.
The two teams put up 28 treys in the first half (52 for the game), but down the stretch it was the free throws that gave the Holcomb Longhorns a 70-65 win over Dalhart in the second round of the Clarion Inn Roundball Classic.
After leading much of the game, Holcomb saw Dalhart mount a comeback that tied the game at 54-all to open the final quarter.
But with a maturity from a team that had no starters from last year’s state runner-up team, the ‘Horns used a short game that got them their second win in as many nights.
The Golden Wolves outscored Holcomb 20-16 in the third period and buried a three to tie the game to open the fourth.
After trading field goals, Holcomb found a resurgence with a River Amos trey and two technical fouls called against Dalhart as the ‘Horns built a 65-56 lead with 2:51 to play.
The Wolves’ pressure defense forced Holcomb into miscues that fed a 6-0 run and closed the gap to three at 65-62.
Then, with 1:18, Zephon Mason, after waiting as the ball sat on the rim, watched his layup fall in and give his team a five-point lead.
Jackson Stoppel buried a pair of free throws for a five-point lead, and following a missed Dalhart free throw, Damon Kepley grabbed a rebound, was fouled, and sank a free throw to seal the win.
After a near-flawless game Thursday night, this matchup was a tougher challenge, something coach Chad Novack can appreciate.
“This was a great challenge for us. Dalhart’s a great basketball team with three or four great players,” he said. “We knew they were going to be a challenge coming in to this. Our goal was to come in here and play hard and get after it, and I thought our kids did that.”
The lead changed four times in the first five minutes before the Longhorns went on an 11-0 run to end the first quarter with a 24-14 lead, helped by Kobe Hands four treys.
Dalhart got back into the game when Robby Devries drained a pair of threes to open the second quarter, and the Golden Wolves closed to within six before Peyton Ortner right the ‘Horns with a field goal.
Dalhart pulled to within 34-31with a 7-0 run late in the half before Holcomb drained free throws to go up 38-31 at the break.
In that half, Holcomb was 6 of 13 and Dalhart 7 of 15 from behind the arc.
For the game, the ‘Horns were 11 of 22 and the Wolves 10 of 30.
Holcomb, which tries to limit its turnovers to 12 or fewer, were forced into 18, 10 of those in the second half as the Wolves upped their defensive pressure.
“We had too many turnovers, too many miscues, but when you play a team like that who puts that kind of pressure on, if we learn from them it’s only going to make us better,” Novack said.
Robby Devries led Dalhart with 24 points, including six treys, and Zach Barsalou added 17.
Kobe Hands led Holcomb with 19, draining five treys. Stoppel finished with 13 points and Amos 10.
A game like this, Novack said, was good for his group, especially as Dalhart mounted its second-half comeback.
“This teaches that we need to value each possession, and that’s something we need to stress and we need to work on,” he said.