Emporia, KS-The Holcomb Longhorns will play for their second state basketball title in three years Saturday night, after knocking off Topeka-Hayden 73 – 69 in overtime.
Senior Conner Van Cleave and Junior Kobe Dickson powered the Longhorns to the win, with 28 and 26 points and 17 and 12 rebounds respectively. Hayden’s Zach Harvey, a highly-prized sophomore recruit, led the Wildcats with 26 points, but Holcomb held 6-foot-6 wingman Deshawn Hanika to just 11, after he had 28 points in the opening round.
Holcomb led early, 6 – 5, but Hayden regained the lead and kept it most of the 1st half. After one quarter, the Longhorns trailed 16 – 10. After Holcomb trimmed it to 2, 18 – 16, Hayden rattled off six straight points to lead by 8, 24 – 16. But the Longhorns went on a 12 – 3 run to retake the lead 28 – 27 on a Brandon Stegman bucket with less than 30 seconds to play in the half. The Wildcats’ Jett Canfield answered at the buzzer and Hayden took a one point lead to the locker room, 29 – 28.
Zach Harvey set out to take over the game in the 3rd quarter, as Hayden rebuilt the lead to 8, 47 – 39, heading into the final stanza. The Wildcats’ Hayden Federico got loose at the start of the 4th quarter to give Hayden its biggest lead of the game, 49 – 39. But the Longhorns stormed back. First, Kobe Dickson muscled in a basket and then followed it up moments later with an old-fashioned three-point play. After a Hayden basket, Trey Gilbert hit a trey and Conner Van Cleave struck for two and suddenly it was a one-point game, 51 – 50.
Hayden would push the lead back to four, but couldn’t put Holcomb away, and with 17 seconds remaining, Van Cleave stood at the free throw line with the Longhorns down by two. Conner calmly hit both free throws and Kobe Dickson blocked a last-second shot at the other end, to send the game into overtime.
Holcomb struck first in the OT, but a Zach Harvey trey put Hayden back up, 61 – 60. The teams traded baskets until Van Cleave hit from beyond the arc to give the Longhorns a 67 – 63 lead. Holcomb would stretch it to 69 – 63 before Hayden started fouling and the Longhorns missed four straight from the charity stripe. After the Wildcats got back within two at 69 – 67, Trey Gilbert and Conner Van Cleave calmly finished them off from the free throw line and Holcomb had the 73 – 69 win.
Van Cleave finished 8 of 8 from the charity stripe and Gilbert hit 4 out of 4, all in the overtime. As a team, Holcomb hit 17 of 27 free throws, while Hayden was 18 of 23. The Longhorns shot 45% from the field, but just 4 of 16 from beyond the arc. The Wildcats shots 43% for the game, 5 of 18 from three-point range. Holcomb won the battle of the boards, 41 – 28 and blocked 5 Wildcat shots, including 4 blocks by Dickson.
The Longhorns have won their 23rd straight game and will face off in the state championship game against Pratt. The championship game will tip at 6:15, with pregame at 6:00 on KBUF.