November 29, 2022

65 years in the making; Hugoton boys going to state

Coming into Saturday night’s sub-state final at Goodland, the Holcomb Longhorns had lost twice to the Hugoton Eagles by a combined score of 8 points–once by 7 in overtime and, most recently, by one point. So, when the Longhorns built a 14-point lead midway through the 3rd quarter, it looked like the 2015 4A-II state champs would get their revenge against the Eagles and have a chance to defend their title. But Hugoton unleashed a 32-10 onslaught over the final 11 minutes of the game to win 59-51 and beat Holcomb for the third time this season.

The Longhorns started fast, jumping out to an 18-7 lead with one minute to go in the opening quarter. Hugoton’s Parker Titus buried a three just before the buzzer and the Eagles carried that momentum into the 2nd quarter, rattling off seven more unanswered points to trim Holcomb’s lead to 1, 18-17. But the Longhorns weathered the storm and refused to surrender the lead. Conner Van Cleave tossed in his own buzzer-beater to give Holcomb a 26-22 halftime lead.

The Longhorns kept the fire going in the 3rd quarter, dropping in seven unanswered points to lead by 11 again. Then, when Braden Showalter fired in a 3-pointer at the 3:45 mark, Holcomb seemed to be on its way back to the state tournament, leading 41-27. Following a timeout, the Eagle barrage began, with a 9-0 run, including another buzzer-beating trey, this one from Colby Korf, and the Longhorn lead was 5, 41-36, with eight minutes to play.

Titus continued the 11-0 run in the 4th quarter with a layup to trim the lead to 3, 41-38, but Dillon Williams answered for Holcomb with a bucket to push the lead back to 5. Then, the Eagles fired off 6 straight points, capped by a bucket from Titus, to take their first lead of the game, 44-43, with 4:45 to play. The Longhorns quickly regained the lead on a Van Cleave 3-point play. After Braden Showalter hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 47-44, the Eagles got back to back baskets from Tony Kinser and Zack Leininger to take the lead for good, 48-47, with just three minutes remaining. After Brandon Stegman missed 2 free throws, Kinser hit another basket to make it 50-47. Showalter then hit 1 of 2 free throws to trim the Hugoton lead to 2. The Eagles put the ball in the hands of Parker Titus and the Longhorns had to foul him repeatedly. Titus would hit 9 out of 10 free throws over the final minute to seal the Eagle victory. Holcomb’s only answer was Showalter’s third trey of the game, but it wasn’t enough.

 Parker Titus led Hugoton with 18 points, followed by Colby Korf’s 14. Wade Heger and Tony Kinser each had 9 points. Conner Van Cleave led Holcomb with 19 points and 23 rebounds, while Braden Showalter added 13 and Brandon Stegman 10. The Longhorns controlled the boards, 36-20, but shot just 37% from the field and committed 13 turnovers, including two in the final minutes that led to points. As a team, Holcomb hit just 8 out of 15 free throws, while Hugoton hit 13 of 17 from the line.

The Longhorns end the season with a 19-3 record. The Hugoton Eagles are now 21-1 and advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1951. They will be the second seed, behind unbeaten Girard, and will face Garnett-Anderson County Thursday night.