By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Longhorn fans will long remember last Thursday’s come-from-behind win over the undefeated and second-ranked Yuma, Colo., Indians.
For 31 minutes and 50 seconds, the Longhorns trailed the Indians.
With the score tied 45-45 and Yuma holding the ball for a last shot, Junior Kelton Fisher stepped in front of an Indian pass at the top of the key and went coast-to-coast.
His lay-up with 10 seconds left gave the Longhorns their only lead of the night and brought fans out of their seats.
Yuma got the ball back for one last desperation shot but a trey for the win never even touched the rim.
Jubilation reigned, with the Longhorns and Coach Carl Zuege getting one of their biggest wins in several years.
Down by 15 in the 3rd
The Longhorns got off to another slow start, trailing 2-13 late in the first quarter.
By halftime, they’d narrowed the deficit to eight, 16-24.
But Yuma came out on fire in the second half, knocking down three treys in a row. For the game, they hit 10 of 22 from outside the arc.
With 4:12 left midway in the third, the Longhorns found themselves down 15 points, 19-34.
Trey Milner knocked down a pair of free throws at the 4:04 mark and the rest of the third quarter belonged to the Longhorns.
Milner’s free throws kicked off a 13-3 run that was fueled by a relentless press, resulting in three consecutive turnovers by the Indian.
The ’Horns converted all three into buckets and pulled to within five going into the final quarter, 32-37.
The Longhorns lost some of their steam and fell behind again by nine, 34-43, with 5:49 left.
From there, the Longhorns, playing some ferocious man defense, yielded just one more basket with 1:28 left.
At the other end, the Longhorns kept applying the pressure to the Indians with another 10-point run.
Dan Sullivan hit a free throw at the 5:41 mark and Ryan Moline knocked down both ends of a one-and-one less than a minute later.
That set up back-to-back treys by Travis Luhrs.
His second one, with 2:26 left, tied the game 43-43.
After Yuma took the lead 45-43, Fisher responded with a 16-footer outside the free throw line to tie the game with 1:13 left.
With one foul to give before putting Yuma into the bonus, the Longhorn defenders continued to badger the Indians.
The Longhorns got whistled for their sixth foul, which forced Yuma to inbound the ball and reset their offense.
Anticipating the pass, Fisher nabbed the ball and went all the way for the score.
A big win for the Longhorns
With the win, the Longhorns close out the pre-holiday schedule with a 4-1 mark, their best record going into the break since 2003.
Zuege said a win like this will help improve the team’s wildcard points, which are used for seeding conference and subdistricts.
“A win like this is a real confidence builder,” the coach said. “I’m really proud of these kids.”
He said they never gave up and turned in one of the best defensive performances of the young season to get themselves back into the game.
Standing on the bench behind Luhrs when he hit his second trey, Zuege knew it was in the second it left his hands.
What’s great, he said, is having different kids step up on different nights.
He was especially pleased with Milner. “He’s a hard worker and a tremendous teammate,” Zuege said. Milner finished the night with eight points.
Fisher led the team with 14, followed by Luhrs with 10.
Overall, the Longhorns shot 47 percent from the field (15-29 2-pointers and 3-9 3-pointers) compared to Yuma’s 41 percent (18-38 and 10-22).
Fisher and Luhrs shared rebounding honors as well with 5 and 4 respectively.
Cabela’s Shootout next
The state’s mandatory moratorium went into effect Dec. 22 and runs through Dec. 26.
The Longhorns will return to action Thursday, Jan. 2 in the Cabela’s Holiday Shootout at Sidney Schools.
They will face the 2-5 Cheyenne South Bison in the middle school gym beginning at 3:45 p.m.
Win or lose, their next game will be at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2.
Championship, third, fifth and seventh place games will all be played Sat. Jan. 4th.
A bracket of the tournament accompanies this story.
2 PT. 3 PT. FT/
FG FG FTA F TP
Travis Luhrs 2 2 0-0 1 10
Ryan Moline 0 0 2-2 1 2
Kevin German 1 0 0-0 2 2
Dan Sullivan 1 0 1-3 1 3
Jeff Dickey 0 1 2-4 4 5
Kelton Fisher 7 0 0-0 2 14
Trey Milner 3 0 2-2 0 8
Isaac Sorensen 1 0 1-2 2 3
TOTALS 15 3 8-13 13 47
Trace Whitehead 4, Connor Blach 8, Brody Swirn 17, Jayden Koenig 4, Chase Murphy 2, Justin Koenig 4, Trevor Kirchenslager 6.
Yuma’s totals: 2 pt. FG—5; 3 pt. FG—10; FT/FTA—5-10; Fouls—16; TP—45.
Points by quarters:
Imperial 5 11 16 15—47
Yuma 13 11 13 8—45