By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
The Longhorns’ goal of breaking a long drought and returning to the boys’ state tournament got put on hold for a year.
The Cozad Haymakers stunned the Chase County Longhorns 73-49 in the subdistrict final last Thursday in Sutherland.
Cozad came into the game on a roll, having won 10 of their last 11 games.
“They’re a hot team right now,” Coach Carl Zuege said. “They’re very athletic and know how to win.”
Cozad won the Class C1 football title just days before facing the Longhorns in the season opener of the basketball season—a game won by the Longhorns 52-48.
Last summer, they also won a state Legion baseball title.
Going into last week’s game, Zuege felt his club matched up well with Cozad, with the exception of their speed and quickness.
That speed and quickness, shown particularly by standout athlete Jake Paulsen, proved to be too much for the Longhorns.
Paulsen went off on the Longhorns, making baskets on steals, getting putbacks on the offensive boards and getting the hot hand from 3-point range. In all, Paulsen finished with 29 points.
Longhorns down early
The Longhorns got off to a slow start against the Haymakers, spotting them a 13-4 advantage in the first six minutes of the game.
Zuege’s crew narrowed it to five, 8-13, before Paulsen hit the first of his three treys with :05 left in the first quarter to put the Haymakers back up by eight, 16-8.
Jeff Dickey answered with a pair of 3-pointers to open the second quarter. Travis Luhrs hit a bucket at the 5:05 mark that tied the game, 16-16.
Kelton Fisher added the next three buckets to offset a Cozad duece and trey. His basket at the 3:16 mark in the second gave the Longhorns their only lead of the game, 22-21.
Cozad then went on an 8-2 run to finish up the half up 28-24.
Baskets by Isaac Sorenson and Fisher, along with a 3 from Dickey enabled the Longhorns to tie the game 31-31 at the 4:50 mark in third. That would later prove to be the closest the Longhorns would be for the rest of the game.
Cozad answered with back-to-back 3-pointers and grabbed a 10-point advantage on a put-back by Paulsen just before the third quarter buzzer.
To typify how bad things were going for the Longhorns, Paulsen stole the in-bounds pass to start the quarter and went in for an uncontested layup.
In the first four minutes of the fourth, Cozad outscored the Longhorns 11-7 and would continue to stretch their lead, winning by 24.
Cozad shot the ball extremely well, Zuege noted, going 70 percent inside the arc. At that level, it makes a team hard to beat.
Plus, the Longhorns turned the ball over far too much. They committed seven turnovers in the first half alone. That’s seven empty trips down the floor—something a team can’t get away with against a hot team like Cozad.
Dickey led the Longhorns with 16, followed by Fisher with 15. Paulsen led all scorers, finishing the night with 15.
2 PT. 3 PT. FT/
FG FG FTA F TP
Travis Luhrs 3 0 0-0 1 6
Ryan Moline 0 0 0-0 3 0
Destyn Miller 0 0 0-0 0 0
Kevin German 0 1 0-1 2 3
Dan Sullivan 1 0 1-2 3 3
Jeff Dickey 3 3 1-2 3 16
Kelton Fisher 6 0 3-4 2 15
Justus Wallin 1 0 0-0 4 2
Trey Milner 0 0 0-0 0 0
Isaac Sorensen 2 0 0-0 3 4
TOTALS 16 4 5-9 21 49
Colin Wetovick 10, Nate Bubak 3, Jake Paulsen 29, Austin Turek 2, Tyler Worrell 2, Conor Young 13, Tanner Evertson 1, Tyson Werner 2, Jason Finnegan 4, Jacob Stallbaumer 7.
Cozad totals: 2 pt. FG—19; 3 pt. FG—6; FT/FTA—17-27; Fouls—16; TP—73.
Points by quarters:
Imperial 8 16 12 13—49
Cozad 16 12 18 27—73
While the Longhorns fell short of qualifying for the state tournament, they finished the season with a 17-7 record, the best a Longhorn team has finished since 2004.
Cozad headed to state
Cozad kept their hot streak alive in the district final Monday night, defeating Valentine 66-57 to earn a slot in the boys’ C1 state tournament.
Valentine pulled off the upset against Chadron in their district final, 46-41.
Cozad had defeated Valentine in the regular season 56-40. The Haymakers take a 17-8 record into state.