Hutchinson, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-A great season ended prematurely for the Holcomb Longhorns on Wednesday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, as the Nemaha Valley Raiders won their first-round 3A state tournament match-up, 76-66.
The Longhorns started slowly, shooting less than 24% from the field in the opening half and falling behind by as many as 14 points, before heading to the locker room down 12 at halftime, 30-18.
The Longhorns made a strong push in the second half, cutting the margin to 3, 50-47, at the 6:25 mark of the fourth quarter thanks to back-to-back treys from Dalton Gottschalk and Conner Van Cleave. Holcomb got no closer, though, as the Raiders seemingly couldn’t miss from the free throw line and they spent most of the second half there, hitting 29 of 31 free throws in the final two quarters and 39 out of 44 for the game. The Longhorns hit 77% of their free throws, but only got to the line 22 times.
Senior Heath Tucker closed out his Holcomb basketball career with 21 points, including 11 of 13 from the charity stripe and 2 out of 4 beyond the arc, before fouling out late in the game. He also dished out 6 assists. Junior post Try Sleep finished with 12 points and 6 boards; and sophomore Christian Merz drained three shots from the beyond the arc and finished with 10 points.
Gottschalk and Van Cleave each added 9 points for the Longhorns, who finish the 2013-14 campaign with 20-4 record and Chad Novack’s first trip to state as the head coach of Holcomb. Nemaha Valley moves on to the semi-finals, carried by Caleb Meyer’s 31 points and Justice McKernan’s 17. The two seniors combined to hit 28 out of 32 free throws, with Meyer going 17 out of 20. The Raiders will face Beloit on Friday in the semi-finals.