HOLCOMB — Despite 29 points from Jackson Stoppel Tuesday night, Holcomb dropped a 74-63 conference game to Hugoton, which completed a season sweep of the Longhorns.
Hugoton came back from an early deficit to get up by as much as 15 in the second half en route to the victory, which improved their record to 11-6 as they remain atop the Great West Athletic Conference.
The Eagles had three players in double figures, led by sophomore Sawyer Harper’s 17 points.
Carlos Montiel had 13 points, and Damian Lewis had 11.
Hugoton was 26 of 42 from the field (62 percent).
“I think we played pretty hard tonight, and made some smarter decisions, cleaned up some areas we were struggling with,” said Hugoton coach CJ Korf. “It was still a bit of a slow start, which has been a thing for us these last four games on the road.”
Stoppel had the hot hand for Holcomb as the junior had nine quick points, leading the Longhorns to a 13-10 lead. But the Eagles finished the quarter strong to take a 17-15 lead.
They continued that trend in the second. After Stoppel tied the game at 17, Hugoton went on a 13-2 run to go up 30-19.
Hugoton scored on five of its final seven possessions of the half to take a commanding 41-24 lead, with the defense holding the ‘Horns to just nine points on seven shots in the quarter and forcing nine turnovers.
The Eagles, meanwhile, were 8 of 18 in that quarter, including a trio of threes.
Holcomb hung tough in the third quarter, outscoring the Eagles 21-16 to cut into the lead.
“We battled through (the third period),” Korf said. “We challenged them at halftime … that it was 0-0. We didn’t extend our lead, but we didn’t let it ever get below double figures.”
Korf thought his team let up on the defensive intensity at times in the second half, but committing just 17 turnovers improved by half the number they committed in a loss at Colby Tuesday.
“I want them aggressive; I want them attacking,” Korf said of his team. “We just have to know when to do it and be strong with the ball when we do.”
Holcomb won the second half, 39-33, but it was the second period that concerned Holcomb coach Chad Novack, which he credits to Hugoton’s defense.
“They’re aggressive on the perimeter,” he said of the Eagles. “I thought we did a great job in the three-quarter court. It was when we got into the half court — our guards were standing there waiting for the ball to come to them instead of them meeting the pass, getting open.”
They discussed that issue at halftime, Novack added, and his team did a better job in the second half breaking the press and running the offense.
But the difference was committing 18 turnovers (12 in the first half) and giving up too many second chances (eight) in the second quarter, he said.
“Second quarter, (Hugoton) got every loose ball, every offensive board, and we turned it over,” Novack said. “That’s not a very good recipe for success. We came back and won the second half, so we did some good things.”
Holcomb (7-11, 2-6) will host Scott City Friday and travel to Colby Tuesday.