By BRETT MARSHALL
HOLCOMB — For Syracuse boys basketball coach Bill Peeper, Friday's 53-49 victory over the Holcomb Longhorns brought an end to a long drought against his rival colleague Scott Stegman.
For Stegman, the disappointing loss wasn't the way he wanted his team prepared for the Class 3A sub-state tournament and it certainly wasn't the way he wanted to see his team go out of the Hi-Plains League.
The Longhorns will be part of the new Great West Athletic Conference and Friday's contest wasn't played for the HPL title as it was last year when Holcomb rolled over the Bulldogs in Syracuse.
Peeper's scrappy team overcame a third quarter deficit in which they trailed by two and were still a basket down at 43-41 with 5:57 to go in the game. That was when Holcomb's Logan Singhisen cashed in one of two free throws. From there, Syracuse went on a roll, reeling off nine unanswered points to go up 50-43 with 1:30 to play.
"It was a good basketball game to watch and to coach and to play in," Peeper said. "We've not had much success against them. I think we beat them my first year (2005) and we won the league. But since then? Not much luck at all. I know it won't sound right, but this was a good way for us to send them out of the league."
The Longhorns had won 40 consecutive HPL games in the previous four seasons and had not lost until an early season setback against Lakin.
"It's not how we wanted to end the regular season," Stegman said. "We had that lead and we just couldn't finish it. It was intensely played as they usually are, but we didn't handle things well down the stretch. We couldn't get the ball in the hole, we had a couple of turnovers and Syracuse did all the little things that we wanted to do. That's the difference."
With Syracuse having built a seven-point advantage, it was left to senior Mitchell Gaede to give the Longhorns hope in the closing seconds. He canned a deep 3-pointer to make it 50-46 with 37 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs proceeded to miss three of its next four free throws. Down 51-46, Kyle Walck was fouled for the Longhorns and went to the line with a 1-and-1 opportunity to trim the deficit but couldn't get the first to fall.
Andrew Brown sank two charity shots with 4.3 seconds showing, icing the game before Gaede knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"Today, right now, I'm proud to be coaching this bunch," Peeper said. "We're back to playing scrappy, gutty basketball and playing with poise. This is always a big game for us and it certainly builds on the momentum we've had over the last week or two."
When the two teams met at the Hi-Plains League tournament in mid-January, Holcomb won 58-54. This time, though, the Bulldogs answered every challenge.
"You know you're going to get their best shot every time you play them," Peeper said of Holcomb. "They play hard and really get after you. When you are fortunate to beat them, you know you've done some things well."
Syracuse got all but four of its points from three players. Seniors Tate Housholder and Brown had 16 points apiece and junior Latigo Petersen scored 16.
"Latigo really stepped up big for us tonight," Peeper said. "Especially when we were without one of our regulars (Blake McAllister). The last couple of games he's been more aggressive and it couldn't come at a better time."
Syracuse (16-4, 8-2) will play at home on Tuesday against Elkhart in a Class 2A sub-state quarterfinal game. Holcomb (14-7, 7-3) will be at home Monday against Larned in a Class 3A sub-state quarterfinal test. Both games tipoff at 7 p.m.
Syracuse 53, Holcomb 49
SYRACUSE (16-4, 8-2) — Parks 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 5-9 5-7 16, B. Simon 0-3 0-0 0, Housholder 7-12 2-4 16, Petersen 5-9 6-8 16, D. Simon 1-5 0-1 2, Burkett 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 18-42 14-22 53.
HOLCOMB (14-7, 7-3) — Singhisen 3-10 3-6 10, Merz 3-4 0-0 7, Robinson 0-4 1-2 1, M. Gaede 2-7 0-0 6, N. Gaede 3-6 1-2 7, Walck 3-8 1-2 7, DeLaRosa 1-4 0-0 2, VanCampen 4-6 1-2 9. Totals 19-49 7-14 49.
Syracuse 12 10 16 15 -- 53
Holcomb 11 11 18 9 -- 49
3-point goals — Syracuse 1-6 (Parks 0-1, Brown 1-3, B. Simon 0-1, Housholder 0-1), Holcomb 4-7 (Singhisen 1-1, Merz 1-2, M. Gaede 2-3, Walck 0-1). Rebounds — Syracuse 30 (Housholder 7), Holcomb 31 (DeLaRosa 8). Turnovers — Syracuse 10, Holcomb 16. Fouls — Syracuse 16, Holcomb 18. Fouled out — Holcomb (VanCampen).