Following Holcomb’s 54-47 win over Wichita Collegiate Saturday, it was hard to tell who had worked harder, the Holcomb coaching staff or their team.
Both entities were sweating after 32-minutes of end-to-end action that pitted the Spartans trademark full-court press against Holcomb’s hustle.
In the end, it was the latter that overcame the former, and it helped ease the sting of Friday night’s Longhorn 56-37 loss to Wichita Trinity.
The first quarter was a game of scoring streaks, with Holcomb scoring the final five points for a 16-10 lead at the break.
Zeke Leyva’s pair of threes opened the second period and a 22-10 lead that Collegiate cut to five before Holcomb closed out the half with a 25-19 lead.
Period three was pivotal as the ‘Horns went on a 14-6 run that featured back-to-back treys from Leyva and Trey Gilbert, and Holcomb increased its lead to 40-26 at the next break.
Collegiate caused a stir when they opened the final period on a 13-2 run to get within three. Holcomb answered with a pair of Devin Mader free throws, a Paden Cornelsen layup and a short jumper from Gilbert to bring some comfort back to Holcomb as they held on for the win.
Gilbert finished with 15 points, and Leyva and Cornelsen both added 12.
After starting slowly and playing poorly in Friday’s loss, Holcomb’s response was what coach Chad Novack was hoping for.
“I was really, really impressed with how our kids responded from the night before,” he said. “As a coaching staff, we talked about how are we going to respond after the way we played the night before. I thought our kids came out and executed the game plan, played with a lot of energy, a lot passion."
For his team to play as hard as they did, he added, says a lot for his team’s character.
“It was two good teams just getting after it,” he said. “Both teams played extremely hard. Both teams put a lot of pride in their defensive effort.”
He told his players it would be a game that would take a lot of mental focus.
“The team that handled the adversity for the full 32 minutes was the team that would come out with the win,” Novack said. “Our kids responded really well tonight.”
Having the lead at the break helped, which meant they were handling the Collegiate pressure.
“That’s something we talked about in our shootaround this morning, was handle the initial pressure and then execute our offense in the half-court set,” Novack said. “We played really good defense that first quarter, which got us that little bit of a lead.”
There were possessions his team was playing 30 to 40 seconds of defense.
“Flat out getting after it,” he said. “As a coach, it was so energetic. That was so much fun to watch today.”
His team was exhausted afterwards.
“But it’s a good type of exhaustion,” Novack said. “As a coach, you want them play hard, act right and enjoy each other. Those guys did that tonight.”
After the loss to Trinity on Friday, it was great to see how his team rebounded, Novack said.
“You can tell a lot about a team by how they handle a loss like that. The way they bounced back shows they have a lot of pride and a lot of resilience in them,” he said. “It’s going to boost our confidence so much going into league play next week.”
Holcomb (3-1) will host Ulysses Friday and finish December play hosting Cimarron the following Tuesday.
Riley Dick had 19 points to pace Collegiate. Gabe Fisher added 15.