HOLCOMB — Basketball season rang in the new year with a bang as the visiting Ulysses boys took out Holcomb, 62-61, in overtime Friday night.
Devin Walker dumped a bounce pass underneath to an open Victor Perez, who made the winning basket with 8 seconds to play.
Holcomb had one last chance as Jackson Stoppel drove to the basket, but he missed the shot and Zion Mason’s putback attempt fell short.
The Tigers, looking flat midway into the third quarter as Holcomb built a 10-point lead, called timeout for adjustments.
Coach Chris Wagner described it as a “come to Jesus moment,” and whatever miracles needed to happen, happened after that.
“We were having some team chemistry issues as far as we weren’t executing offensively the way we wanted to and the way that we want to play basketball,” Wagner said. “On the bench, I told them, 'This isn’t you, guys. This isn’t how we play.' That timeout — it’s like their energy took off from there.”
After the timeout, his team got two quick steals and scores to cut the double-digit lead down to six.
“We rallied from that point on,” Wagner said.
Devin Walker scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the final period, helping his team’s turnaround. The senior scored seven of his team’s 13 first-quarter points in what portended the exciting finish.
Ulysses opened an 11-4 lead before the Longhorns came back to trail just 13-11 after one quarter.
Holcomb grabbed a 24-20 lead midway into the second period before Ulysses tied it late, but Stoppel hit a field goal with five seconds left to give the ‘Horns a 26-24 lead at the break.
Holcomb scored eight straight points to open the second half and was ahead 38-28 before Ulysses mounted a comeback late in the third.
Perez scored four of the Tigers’ next eight points, with a Mason trey wedged in for Holcomb, and the ‘Horns led 41-36 after the third.
Devin Walker scored six straight points early in the fourth for Ulysses and Lance Walker tied the game at 44-44 at the 6:04 mark.
Holcomb’s Kobe Hands buried a 3 to give his team a brief lead, before Jason Hickman tied the game on his own 3-ball.
Perez gave the Tigers their first lead in a long time at 49-47, but a Holcomb run of 7-0 gave the home team some breathing room.
Ahead 56-54, Holcomb had 13.3 seconds to hold on to the lead, with Ulysses taking the ball out at half-court.
Devin Walker drove to the key and dropped in a bucket to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Once in the extra frame, Holcomb scored on its first two possessions.
Damon Kepley scored on an acrobatic shot from behind the goal to put the ‘Horns up 58-56, and Stoppel got a dish from Hands for a 60-56 lead.
Lance Walker scored to pull his team within two. Hands hit 1-of-2 free throws to put Holcomb back up by three, but Lance Walker got a pass from Devin Walker to pull the Tigers within 61-60.
Perez finished with 10 points, and the Lance Walker added eight.
“We were moving the ball. We were getting more than one pass per possession,” Wagner said of his team’s rally. “Just those little things can make a difference. It makes their defense work harder, maybe wears them down a little — maybe makes the difference in overtime.”
Holcomb had chances in the fourth quarter but missed the front end of a one-and-one. In overtime, the Longhorns were just 1 of 3 from the line. They finished the game just 5 of 11 from the stripe.
“In spurts we played really well,” Holcomb head coach Chad Novack said. “We executed our offense really well at times and got some great shots — played good defense and limited (Ulysses) to one-and-done.”
But the ‘Horns had too many possessions where they didn’t execute well, rushing some shots and passing up others.
They also turned the ball over 18 times, twice at critical times in the fourth quarter and four-of-five possessions near the end of overtime.
“We put ourselves in position to win, but you’re not going to win many close games when you don’t make free throws and you turn the ball over in the tail end of it,” Novack said. “But I can’t fault our guys’ effort. They played hard, and I appreciate the attitudes they played with.”
Hands led Holcomb with 22 points, including seven 3-pointers. Kepley had 15, and Stoppel 13.
Ulysses missed its first five shots in overtime as Holcomb went ahead by four, but Wagner was proud of the composure under pressure his team showed.
“You’ve got to stay composed. We can’t let their scoring get us down,” he said. “No matter what happens, there’s still a ball game ahead. I thought the kids responded the way they needed to.”
Ulysses (5-1) travels to Scott City and Goodland next week, while Holcomb (4-3) travels to Hugoton and Scott City.