February 1, 2023

Longhorns split with Liberal on opening night

The Holcomb Longhorn basketball teams split their season openers against the Liberal Redskins, with the boys rolling to a 68-48 win, while the girls fell 54-38.

In the boys’ game, the reigning 4A-II state champions missed some shots and fell behind early, but led 15-12 after one quarter. Liberal would re-take the lead midway through the second quarter and then Holcomb finished the half on a 9-3 run to lead 29-24 at the break. The Longhorns took over in the third quarter, spurred by a ball-hawking defense, outscoring the Redskins 21-7 to lead 50-31 heading into the final period. Holcomb would build the lead to 26 before Coach Chad Novack cleared his bench and the Longhorns coasted to the 20-point win.

Conner Van Cleave led all scorers with 24 points, 14 of those coming in the first half. Christian Merz followed with 17. Liberal had nobody in double figures. Novack said he was most pleased with the effort, given that most of his players only had four days of practice following the Longhorns’ state championship victory in football less than a week before the basketball season opener.

In the girls’ game, Holcomb couldn’t hit shots early, got out-rebounded by Liberal and committed several turnovers as the Redskins raced to a 30-7 lead with just 1:00 to play in the first half. Jordan Jarnigan scored Holcomb’s first 9 points, 7 of those coming from the free throw line. But Chesney McVey and Eboni Sapien closed out the opening half with back-to-back treys and the Lady Longhorns trailed 32-15 at intermission.

Holcomb came out on fire in the second half, scoring 8 quick points in the first 1:30 of the third quarter to cut the lead to 9 at 32-23. Zoe Engler started the stampede with a conventional three-point play and Eboni Sapien quickly added 5 more points, including a trey. The Lady Redskins regained control, though, and pushed the lead back to 14. Holcomb would cut it to 10, but could get no closer, falling by 16 points.

Jordan Jarnigan led the way for the Lady Longhorns with 15 points, Eboni Sapien followed with 10 and Chesney McVey finished with 8 points. Jada Mickens of Liberal led all scorers with 16. Coach Nathan Novack was particularly pleased with the fight his girls showed in the second half and sees that performance as something to build on.

The next action for both the boys and girls will come Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Clarion Inn Southwest Classic.