By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
For the second consecutive game, the Chase County Longhorns went to overtime but this time they came up short.
The Longhorns fell to the 12-1 Holyoke Dragons Saturday night 46-52 but not without a fight.
The Dragons came into the game ranked third in Colorado 2A and didn’t see the 3-10 team they expected.
For once, it was the Longhorns who set the early pace in the game, opening up a 7-1 lead to stun the Dragons.
“We pushed the ball early and they weren’t ready for us to do that,” Coach Carl Zuege said.
The Longhorns led for much of the first quarter but Holyoke managed to tie the game 11-11 with a pair of free throws late in the first quarter.
As the second quarter opened, the Longhorns came up empty on several trips down the floor.
Then, leading scorers Alex Strand and Tanner Stromberger went to the bench with their third foul.
That, coupled with turnovers, enabled the Dragons to build an 11-point lead with two minutes left in the half.
But a pair of free throws and a basket by Daniel Regier pulled the Longhorns back to within seven at the break, 15-22.
Zuege said getting the last four points of the half allowed them to weather the storm and stay in the game.
However, the Longhorns got off to a slow start to open the second half and looked to be in trouble. But then came the rally.
With about four minutes left in the quarter, the Longhorns caught fire. They controlled the offensive boards, got some put-backs and found themselves just four points down going into the final quarter, 25-29.
Offensively, the Longhorns responded with 17 points to close the gap and held Holyoke to just two field goals.
Free throws a difference maker
But unfortunately, the difference in the ball game proved to be free throws.
While holding Holyoke to just two baskets, the Longhorns sent the Dragons to the line 12 times in the fourth quarter.
They capitalized on the opportunities, making nine of 12.
In the first three quarters, Holyoke went to the line 18 times, hitting 12 of those.
That allowed them to make up for playing without their leading scorer, Kyle Carper. He’s recovering from an ankle sprain and only played in the first several minutes of the game.
Conversely, over those same four quarters, the Longhorns only got to the line seven times, making four.
With the fourth quarter winding down, the Longhorns trailed by five before Strand dropped a trey to pull the Longhorns within two, 43-45.
The Longhorns fouled to send the Dragons’ Logan Krueger to the line with about 12 seconds left.
He made the first throw but missed the second, keeping Imperial alive.
Zuege went back to Strand who came off a screen at the top. With defenders in his face, Strand launched the trey that found the bottom on the net with only two seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra four minutes, the Longhorns came up empty their first several possessions and put Holyoke at the line again, allowing them to take a lead.
From there the Longhorns were forced to foul and the Dragons continued to capitalize at the line, scoring all 10 of their overtime points at the line.
All told, the Dragons shot 46 free throws, accounting for 31 of their 52 points while the Longhorns only went to the line 10 times, making six.
Obviously that was the difference in the game, Zuege said.
Offensively, Strand and Stromberger led the team with 13 and 11 respectively.
Despite the loss, Zuege was pleased with how his team competed, turning in their best effort of the season.
The key will be to build on that as the team heads down the home stretch of the regular season into subdistricts.
What’s encouraging, Zuege said, is that they can fix the problems that hurt them in Saturday’s loss.
“We need to focus on getting better,” he said. “Practices last week were better and we played better.”
He said attitudes are up and the kids are looking toward a strong finish.
2 PT. 3 PT. FT/
FG FG FTA F TP
Kyle Bottom 3 0 0-1 5 6
Jakob Burke 0 0 0-0 1 0
Shane German 0 0 0-0 0 0
Alex Strand 2 3 0-0 4 13
Adam Moline 0 0 0-0 0 0
Alec Spady 0 0 0-0 4 0
Jeff Banks 1 1 0-0 0 5
Charlie Haarberg 1 0 1-1 5 3
Daniel Regier 2 0 4-5 2 8
Adam Dickey 0 0 0-0 0 0
Grant Lenners 0 0 0-0 0 0
Tanner Stromberger 5 0 1-3 5 11
TOTALS 14 2 6-10 26 46
Holyoke, Colo. 52
Reid Baumgartner 7, King 2, Ryan Baumgartner 9, Carper 3, Krueger 18, DeBoer 5, Swanson 8.
Holyoke’s totals: 2 pt. FG—6; 3 pt. FG—3; FT/FTA—31-46; Fouls—15, TP—52.
Points by quarters:
Imperial 11 4 10 17 4—46
Holyoke 11 11 7 13 10—52
This week the Longhorns will travel to North Platte to face the St. Pat’s Irish.
St. Pat’s stands at 10-5. After losing both SPVA tournament games, they came back last week to defeat Maxwell. Jayvee action begins at 3:30 p.m. MT.
On Tuesday, the Longhorns will play host to the Wauneta-Palisade Broncos whose record stands at 15-2. They claimed the RPAC conference tourney title on Saturday. Jayvee action for the boys and girls teams begins at 4 p.m.