Holcomb High School's boys basketball team made sure to not let an eight-point deficit get the better of it in Friday night's semifinal battle against host Hillsboro at the Trojan Classic.

Trailing by eight points heading to the fourth quarter at 48-40, the Longhorns used an early 10-2 run to propel themselves to a 26-12 fourth-quarter blitz that gave them a dramatic 66-60 victory over the Trojans.

The victory sends the Longhorns (9-2) into tonight's 7:30 p.m. championship game against unbeaten Hesston (11-0), a 59-45 winner over Wamego earlier Friday.

Heath Tucker and Trey Sleep ended the run with back-to-back goals to tie the game at 50.

After that, the scoring resembled a ping pong game as the two teams exchanged leads or tied seven more times down the stretch.

But Dalton Gottschalk hit a field goal with 50 seconds remaining to give Holcomb the 60-58 lead and Conner VanCleave rebounded his missed free throw to make it a four-point play, and Hillsboro never got within three after that.

Tucker and VanCleave scored the final four points on free throws to clinch the win and send the Longhorns into tonight's title game.

For coach Chad Novack, his third-seeded Longhorns showed him quite a bit in the win. It all came back to working the basics and being patient.

"I told them that, in order to get back in this game, it was going to be one trip at a time," he said. "It was going to take time. We weren't going to get it all back at once. Just play solid defense and execute on the offensive side."

His team kept its cool under tough circumstances, Novack said. Two weeks ago they faced a similar situation against Scott City and he felt his team folded then.

"Tonight they did a great job of battling and fighting back, kept their composure and finished the game out," he said.

As he has said all season, this group battles and wants to be successful.

"They weren't going to quit tonight," he continued. "Their hard work and determination paid off."

Sleep led Holcomb with 21 points, Gottschalk followed with 19 and Tucker added 15.

Holcomb shot 63.9 percent from the field (23 of 36) and 18 of 29 from the line.

Hillsboro was led by Brent Weinbrenner with 29 points, including 13 of 16 at the free throw line.

Christian Ratzlaff added 21.

Hesston, the top-ranked 3A team in the state, is just another challenge for the Longhorns, Novack added. All he asks is for the same type of effort from his players and see what happens.


Holcomb 14 16 10 26 -- 66

Hillsboro 14 16 18 12 -- 60

Holcomb (66)--VanCleave 2 3-4 7, Schmidt 0 1-2 1, Rupp 1 0-0 3, Sleep 8 5-7 21, Tucker 4 6-8 15, Gottschalk 8 3-9 19. Totals 23 18-29 66.

Hillsboro (60)--Allen 1 0-0 2, Ratzlaff 7 4-5 21, Weinbrenner 7 13-16 29, Brown 1 0-0 2, Faul 2 0-0 6. Totals 18 17-21 60.

3-point goals--Holcomb 2 (Rupp, Tucker), Hillsboro 7 (Ratzlaff 3, Weinbrenner 2, Faul 2).

Holcomb girls 64, Republic Co. 26

The Lady Longhorns were looking to bounce back after a tough 51-46 setback to unbeaten Riley County in Monday's Trojan Classic opener, and they delivered just that for coach Kenton Tennal.

In pushing their record to 9-1, the Lady Longhorns raced past Republic County of Belleville, 64-26, in Friday's consolation round and will now face Great West Activities Conference foe Goodland for fifth place at 11:30 a.m. today. Goodland (7-3) defeated TMP-Marian 35-27 in its Friday contest.

The Lady Longhorns got off to a slow start according to Tennal, but then warmed up in the second en route to a convincing triumph.

They were ahead 14-6 after one quarter, but then went on a 25-10 second-quarter blitz to take a 39-16 halftime lead.

"I thought we came out sluggish, but then we executed really good in the second quarter," Tennal said. "We played much better. Republic County, obviously, isn't as good as Riley County, but I thought we did a lot of good things."

A 16-2 third-quarter advantage extended the Longhorns' lead to 55-18, enabling Tennal to rotate players in and out of the lineup.

Three players scored in double figures for the Longhorns, led by Kylee Amos' 15 points, including going 6-of-7 shooting from the field. Taylor Deniston and Jordan Jarnagin each scored 14 points. Deniston was 6-of-7 shooting from the field while Jarnagin knocked down 8 of 9 free throws. Haley Heydman added 12, going 6-of-7 shooting from the field.

"We attacked the basket well tonight, got a lot of post to post assists and had some good kickout 3's," Tennal said. "We did a good job defensively, so overall I thought we were pretty sharp after the first quarter."

Kendsey Johnson led Republic County with eight points.


Holcomb 14 25 16 9 -- 64

Republic Co. 6 10 2 8 -- 26

Holcomb (64)--Herington 1 0-0 3, Amos 6 2-4 15, Asebeto 0 0-2 0, Deniston 5 2-2 14, Heydman 6 0-2 12, Jarnigin 3 8-9 14, Ratliff 2 0-0 6. Totals 23 12-19 64.

Republic Co. (26)--K. Scott 1 0-0 3, M. Scott 0 1-2 1, Valek 1 0-0 2, Johnson 3 2-2 8, Sheets 1 0-0 2, Benyshek 3 1-2 7, Pachta 1 0-0 2, Beeson 0 1-2 1. Totals 10 5-8 26.

3-point goals--Holcomb 6 (Deniston 2, Ratliff 2, Amos, Herington), Hillsboro 1 (Scott)