Hodgeman County senior Thatcher Lackey was a force near the basket on both offensive and defensive ends, and made his presence felt early, hitting a 2-point shot to give the Longhorns a 14-11 lead in the first quarter against the Pawnee Heights Tigers Tuesday.

The Longhorns boys basketball team beat the Tigers 56-52 Tuesday.

Lackey had a team-high 21 for the Longhorns. Senior Spencer Bowman had 14. Junior Eli Salmans had 9.

Pawnee Heights was led by senior Kade Scott, who had an incredible 36 points in the loss. Junior Harrison VanMeter had 7.

The Tigers outscored the Longhorns 22-13 in the third quarter despite having trailed at halftime 38-25. The scoring difference left Hodgeman County in the lead, but just barely, entering the fourth with a score of 51-47.

“I thought we played a good first half, and then we just had a terrible opening three minutes of the (second) half, and then we have a ball game on our hands,” Hodgeman County coach Levi Salmans said. “Kade Scott’s a tremendous player, caught fire and it was all we could do to get him slowed down.”

The Tigers kept the game close, and in the third quarter tied the score at 41-41, but the Longhorns were able to take the lead and eventually close out the game, in part due to two clutch free throws by Bowman with under a minute left and a 54-52 lead. His free throws stood up as the game’s final points.

“Spencer’s never minded the moment, and he’s hit big shots his whole career,” Salmans said. “I don’t know if there’d be anyone else I’d rather have on the line than him.”

Salmans said one player the might not jump out based on the game statistics was Eli Salmans.

“Eli was the one that had to basically, there at the end, slide over and guard Kade and get him slowed down a little bit, at least make it hard,” Levi Salmans said. “He’s the point guard, I think our turnovers were pretty good this game, I don’t think they were too high. He makes sure we’re going in the right stuff.”

The Longhorns had beaten Pawnee Heights Jan. 15 by a score of 49-36, and their strong start to the game showed they had not come in complacent about the Tigers based on that win.

The second half was a different story, Salmans said.

“I think weren’t complacent, but I do think we were complacent coming out at halftime,” Salmans said. “We were ready to hit the cruise control and you can’t do that against a good team like that. You can’t do it against any team, and we’re still learning. That’s the third or fourth time this year that we have blown big leads at halftime.”

Salmans said that was his biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s game.

“We haven’t played 32 minutes,” Salmans said. “We show some great signs and spurts, and we’ve played great quarters and minutes here and there, but we have not played 32 minutes, and if you ever want to win the big game or a big game it’s got to be 32 minutes.”

They advance to play at 7:30 p.m. Friday on the winners side of the 2019 SPIAA League Basketball Tournament Bracket. They’ll face the South Gray Rebels.

The Tigers, having narrowly lost, will play Friday in a consolation game at 4:30 p.m. They will face the Ashland Bluejays.