The Class 3A sub-state championship game offered few surprises.
Since early in the season, many expected to see Scott Community High School and Holcomb in the championship game.
Even Holcomb’s 17-15 first quarter lead didn’t shock anyone on the Scott City bench.
“It’s a sub-state championship so you expect them to play their best. They’re a tough team and they came out firing on all cylinders to start the game,” said senior guard Brett O’Neil.
Likewise, neither was the final score a big surprise.
The Beavers did just what one would expect from a two-time defending state champion. They kept their composure and relied on great offensive execution in an 81-62 win.
SCHS (22-1) led 38-27 at halftime and extended their lead to 27 points, 71-44, early in the fourth quarter to complete a three game sweep of the Longhorns (18-5) this season.
“Holcomb always plays their best against us,” says senior pivot Drew Kite, who finished with a game high 24 points. “Heath (Tucker) and (Tyler) LaSalle are so talented. It’s tough to play defense against them, especially when they’re hot from the outside.”
The Longhorns were hot early as LaSalle drilled a trey with 1:39 left in the first period to give them a 15-13 lead, which they extended to 17-13 moments later for Holcomb’s biggest advantage in the game.
The Beavers weren’t phased when they huddled in between quarters.
“During the break the thing we talked about was keeping our heads up and good things will happen,” says sophomore guard Trey O’Neil. “We felt we’d taken their best shot and we were only down by two.”
It didn’t take long for Scott City to establish control of the game with an 18-5 scoring blitz to open the second period.
B. O’Neil’s steal and layup at the 6:37 mark put the Beavers back on top, 20-19, and they never trailed again. Senior forward Joey Meyer followed moments later with a jumper at the free throw line which contributed to his 17 point night.
“I haven’t had my shot going for a few games and pulling up at the free throw line is something I’m good at,” noted Meyer. “When I get the ball and no one comes out on me, I know it’s going in.”
Meyer duplicated that shot two minutes later which finished off a brief 7-0 scoring burst and stretched Scott City’s lead to 29-21 with four minutes left in the period.
Drew Kite’s spin move to the basket made it an 11 point game, 33-22, with 2:32 remaining and B. O’Neil’s three-point play just before half again put SCHS on top by 11, 38-27.
The message during halftime was simple. Play defense.
“Coach told us at halftime we needed to score, get a stop and score. He said we needed to pick up our defense and score,” Meyer says. “That’s how (scoring) runs begin.”
Senior Tyler Hess, who finished with a season high 17 points, burned the Longhorns with a couple of backdoor layins to open the second half. Meyer added a basket and T. O’Neil connected on a pair of free throws to give the Beavers a seemingly comfortable 46-29 lead at the 5:37 mark.
Holcomb, however, refused to go away quietly. A pair of treys gave the Longhorns some life, along with Kite picking up his third foul with 4:03 remaining.
Kite was still a dominating force in the paint, hitting a pair of free throws and adding a three-point play that put his team back on top, 54-38.
But a physical game got a little testy under the Holcomb basket when a Longhorn was called for a foul when he undercut Kite during a rebound. Kite made a comment and a technical put him on the bench with four fouls.
Holcomb followed with a three-point play that cut the deficit to 54-41 with 1:54. With Kite on the bench, the Longhorns seemingly had an opportunity to climb back into the game.
Instead, the Beavers responded with a 10-0 scoring run. A pair of baskets by Meyer to open the fourth quarter put the Beavers on top, 64-41, and ended any hopes of a Holcomb upset.
B. O’Neil finished off a 7-0 scoring surge with a pair of free throws that gave Scott City a 71-44 edge. Kite’s three-point play midway into the quarter again put the Beavers on top by 27 points, 75-48.
Despite being blanketed by the Holcomb defense, B. O’Neil and T. O’Neil finished with 15 and nine points, respectively.
“(Holcomb) made some adjustments and tried to shut down Brett and Trey,” says Kite. “Joey stepped up huge tonight with some of his shots and Tyler had a great game.”
It was some redemption for the younger O’Neil who was very disappointed with his play Friday that sent him to the bench with early foul trouble.
“I felt I had something to prove tonight,” says T. O’Neil. “I only had a chance to play a half last night and I wanted to show that I can play ball. Playing against Holcomb, which raises the intensity level another five or 10 times, only makes it that much more fun.”