Holcomb boys claim Hillsboro title; girls drop 2nd game
By BRETT MARSHALL
The Holcomb Longhorns’ boys basketball team earned its reward of hard work and battling through a tough previous week of two losses by capturing the championship game on Saturday of the Hillsboro Trojan Classic with a 47-37 victory over Republic County.
Holcomb’s Lady Longhorns, meanwhile, suffered another tough loss, this time 53-52 to Class 3A perennial power Riley County, in the fifth place game on Saturday afternoon.
For boys coach Chad Novack, the tournament title was his team’s first in the one and a half seasons he has been at the helm of the boys program.
“It was a great experience for the kids,” Novack said. “This week, we played smarter and played with more energy and more focus.”
Prior to tournament week, the Longhorns had lost to both Scott City and Ulysses, due in part to that lack of focus, lack of energy on the floor, Novack said.
“I thought we did a good job defensively during the tournament, just a more solid understanding of what we wanted to do,” Novack said. “We were able to take away the other team’s strength and I thought we rebounded the ball well.”
In Saturday’s title matchup, the Longhorns found themselves trailing 32-31 after three quarters but then put on a dominating performance in the fourth quarter by outscoring the Buffaloes 16-5 to put the game away.
“They run a very deliberate style of offense that makes you work really hard on the defensive end,” Novack said of Republic County.
The title game started off slowly, with the Longhorns leading 9-6 after one quarter butn trailing 23-20 at halftime and then 32-31 after three periods.
Forward Shane Bennett topped the Longhorns scoring with 14 points and also led the team with 9 rebounds as the ‘Horns won the board battle 24-17. Tyler LaSalle was the only other double-figure scorer with 10 points. Holcomb finished the game hitting 50 percent from the field (18-of-36) and were 7-of-9 at the free throw line (77.7 percent). The Longhorns’ defense limited the Buffs to just 32.5 percent shooting from the field (14-of-43). Trenton Kuhlman and Trevor Allen led Republic County’s scoring attack with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Turnovers, which had proved to be costly in those losses to Scott City and Ulysses, were one area of much-needed improvement, Novack said.
“We worked really hard on that, emphasized taking care of the basketball better and the kids did that,” Novack said of his team’s 9 miscues in the title game. “We knew there would be limited possessions and we just worked hard with them to make sure they were making good decisions. I think the kids really came together this week. We had a lot of chances to practice and practice at different places, and I think it really helped us.”
The Longhorns improved their season mark to 9-3 and will return to action at 8 p.m. on Friday when they host Hugoton for homecoming. They will then play on Jan. 29 at Garden City in the Finney County showdown that Garden City won a year ago in the first-ever meeting between the intra-county schools.
Holcomb 9 11 11 16 — 47
Republic Co. 6 17 9 5 — 37
Holcomb (47) — Ramsey 3-4 1-3 7, Bennett 7-10 0-0 14, Roth 2-3 2-2 7, Richmeier 0-3 0-0 0, Gilbert 0-1 0-0 0, Cox 1-5 2-2 5, Hernandez 2-3 0-0 4, LaSalle 3-7 2-2 10. Totals 18-36 7-9 47.
Republic Co. (37) — Hoops 0-0 0-0 0, Kuhlman 5-15 3-5 15, Strutt 0-3 0-0 0, J. Hadachek 2-3 0-0 6, Allen 5-17 1-2 11, G. Hadachek 2-5 1-2 5. Totals 14-43 5-9 37.
3-point goals—Holcomb 4-13 (Roth 1-2, Richmeier 0-3, Cox 1-3, LaSalle 2-5), Republic Co. 4-11 (Kuhlman 2-5, Strutt 0-2, J. Hadachek 2-2, Allen 0-2). Rebounds—Holcomb 24 (Bennett 9), Republic Co. 17 (Brzon 5, G. Hadachek 5). Turnovers—Holcomb 9, Republic Co. 6. Fouls—Holcomb 11, Republic Co. 10. Fouled out—none.
Riley Co. girls 53, Holcomb 52
For Lady Longhorns coach Kenton Tennal, the one-point loss to Riley County served to remind him and his players that there is much to be improved, yet the team proved it can compete with some of the top teams in Class 3A and 4A.
Despite going 1-2 in the tourney, the Lady Longhorns (10-2) were right in the battle in their first round game before losing to Class 4A ranked Hesston, routed TMP-Marian in a consolation game on Thursday and then lost the final test against Riley County.
“The tournament was good for us, even with the losses,” Tennal said. “We learned a lot. We know what happens when we don’t bring any enthusiasm, any heart to the game at the start, and we know how our defense can play and get us into games and give us a chance to win.”
In Saturday’s loss to the Lady Falcons, Holcomb fell behind 15-8 after the first quarter and then narrowed their deficit to 24-21 by halftime. Riley County, though, won the third quarter 19-15 to take a 43-36 lead into the fourth period. That’s when Holcomb’s defense picked up the pressure and got them back in the game.
With 5.2 seconds, Riley County made 1-of-2 free throws and the Longhorns came down with a chance to win the game, but were unable to get a shot off before the buzzer.
“We didn’t do the things that you try to work on in practice to get yourself a shot there at the end,” Tennal said. “I thought overall we handled pressure from the teams pretty well as we saw defenses that we don’t typically see out here. But I think we still came away with a lot of confidence and now it’s just a matter of learning how to win at the end. I know we can play with anyone when we’re playing our style of ball.”
Three players scored in double figures for Holcomb, led by Katie Pfeifer’s 16 points, including four 3-pointers. She was 4-of-6 behind the arc. Karissa Pena followed with 11 points and Taylor Deniston added 10 off the bench.
“Taylor gave us a nice spark in the second half and Katie shot the ball well again from the three,” Tennal said.
Madison Vargo’s 21 points led Riley County (7-5) with 21 points and Katelyn Thomson added 11.
The Lady Longhorns will play host at 6:30 p.m. Friday to Hugoton for homecoming. That will be the final tune-up before the Jan. 29 Finney County showdown with Garden City at The New Garden. The teams met for the first time ever a year ago with Garden City eking out a 57-56 overtime win.
Riley County 15 9 19 10 — 53
Holcomb 8 13 15 16 — 52
Riley County (53) — H. Prockish 1-4 1-2 3, Oliver 2-10 3-4 9, Mak. Vargo 2-7 3-7 7, Thomson 4-9 3-4 11, Kulp 1-2 0-2 2, Mad. Vargo 7-9 3-4 21, Busch 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-42 13-23 53.
Holcomb (52) — Pfeifer 5-8 2-2 16, Jarnagin 0-0 0-0 0, Prieto 1-4 2-2 5, Heydman 3-8 2-2 8, Deniston 4-10 2-2 10, Amos 1-4 0-0 2, Pena 3-6 5-5 11. Totals 17-40 13-13 52.
3-point goals—Riley County 6-17 (Oliver 2-6, Mak. Vargo 0-3, Thomson 0-2, Mad. Vargo 4-6), Holcomb 5-14 (Pfeifer 4-6, Prieto 1-3, Deniston 0-2, Amos 0-2). Rebounds—Riley County 17 (Mak. Vargo 6), Holcomb 24 (Pena 6). Turnovers—Riley County 9, Holcomb 14. Fouls—Riley County 14, Holcomb 18. Fouled out—none.