By KEVIN THOMPSON
PLAINS — Since the phrase "give 110 percent" is impossible, all Holcomb coach Chad Novack asked from his Longhorns was just the 100 percent.
They rose to the challenge Friday night, leaving everything on the court in a hard-fought 58-51 win over Cheney to advance to today's finals of the Class 3A sub-state tournament.
Holcomb had a tough time finding a basket early, hitting just one field goal in the first 4:27, while Cheney built an 8-2 lead, thanks to 6-4 senior post Gabe Schomacker's three straight layups.
Then the Longhorns found their groove, turned up the intensity one notch, and rolled off a 10-0 run, spearheaded by Clay Gilbert's three field goals and Tyler LaSalle sinking two technical foul free throws.
After ending the quarter up 15-13, Holcomb scored three straight times to start the second and built the lead to 22-13 before Cameron Hill's field goal at 5:26.
That would be it for Cheney field goals until 23 seconds remaining. They did, however, hit a load of free throws (9-of-13), but Holcomb went into the break up 29-27.
Holcomb got the lead back to 10 in the third period at 5:12, 51-41, and then the their flight plan hit a holding pattern.
From the 4:42 mark, Holcomb went scoreless for nearly 3 minutes, while the Cardinals finally put together a string of field goals to close the gap to 53-49.
When Aaron Hernandez hit Holcomb's first goal in a while, it signaled the end for Cheney.
Free throws down the end, including a pair by Heath Tucker on an intentional foul sealed the win for the Longhorns, and propelled them into the 7:30 p.m. final on Saturday.
"That was a very good basketball game. Both teams played really hard. I'm so proud of our team," Novack said. "They busted their butts tonight."
Though the Longhorns didn't shoot too well from the floor (23-of-57), getting a win over a team of the caliber of Cheney, the eighth-ranked team in 3A, was quite an accomplishment, he said.
"That shows how hard our kids played on the defensive end. Our kids stuck together and stuck with it and played extremely, extremely hard tonight," Novack said.
The first couple of minutes when they were down was slightly concerning, he added, but the nerves settled, the offense executed, and the ship was righted.
"We usually get off to a slow start," Tucker said. "We're used to it. We knew we'd get back into it sooner or later."
LaSalle and Tucker combined for 33 points, triple what they did in Wednesday's quarterfinals. On that day, inside guys Shane Bennett and Max Ramsey had 27, but Friday they were held to just 11.
It just shows how unselfish the Longhorns are when it comes to stats, Novack said.
"These kids don't care who scores as long as they get the 'W' at the end," he said.
Schomacker finished with 18 points and kept the Holcomb inside game unsteady most of the night. But Novack said the Longhorns talked through some things at halftime to keep him contained, and they held him to just free throws in the third and two field goals in the fourth.
Tucker said the halftime talk was all about running offense and not fouling and keep putting Cheney on the line. The advice worked.
"We were confident going into the second half because we knew we could beat them," Tucker said. "We got a little sloppy in the fourth quarter with turnovers but we got it done."
Holcomb (18-4) out-rebounded Cheney 37-24, something the 'Horns have done all year, and will have to do tonight.
"I asked them after the game if they left it all out there, and they all said 'yes,'" he said. "That's all I can ask for as a coach."
Now on tap is Scott City (22-0), a team Holcomb has lost to twice this year. Tonight, though, could be a different story, Novack said, especially if Holcomb can play with the same energy.
"We talked about that after the game. We didn't play as well as we could offensively, but we played as hard as we can," he said. "If we just bring it and play to our potential and execute like we can, I think we can do it."
Holcomb 15 14 18 11 -- 58
Cheney 13 14 12 12 -- 51
Holcomb (18-4) — Tucker 6 4-5 17, LaSalle 6 2-4 16, Hernandez 3 1-2 7, Gilbert 3 1-2 7, Richmeier 0 0-1 0. ,Bennett 3 0-0 6, Ramsey 2 1-2 5. Totals 23-57 9-16 58.
Cheney (18-4) — Higgins 3 3-4 10, Hageman 2 1-2 5, Patterson 2 2-3 6, Hill 1 0-0 3, Amsink 0 2-2 2, Harbour-Nordahl 3 0-0 6, G. Schomacker 6 6-11 18. Totals 17-46 14-22 51.
3-pt. goals — Holcomb 3-14 (Tucker, LaSalle 2), Cheney 2-10 (Higgins, Hill). Rebounds — Holcomb 37 (Tucker 11, Gilbert 8), Cheney 24 (G. Shomacker 11).
Turnovers — Holcomb 15, Cheney 16. Technical fouls — Cheney (coach). Fouled out — Cheney (Higgins, Harbour-Nordahl). Total fouls — Holcomb 19, Cheney 18.