The Hodgeman County Longhorns outscored the Kiowa County Mavericks 21-9 in the third quarter Saturday, taking the third-place game of the 2019 SPIAA League Basketball Tournament. Final score: 64-50.

The Mavericks had trailed 8-0, came back to take a 23-22 lead, then had been unable to prevent the Longhorns from taking the lead again. The Longhorns led 34-30 at halftime.

But Kiowa County was unable to weather the adjustments the Longhorns made in the third. While the Longhorns outscored the Mavericks, Longhorn head coach Levi Salmans didn’t attribute the way the game went to the team’s shooting in that quarter.

In the first quarter, the Longhorns had been up 15-6 before the Mavericks were able to dissolve that lead.

“I thought what really happened was we tightened up on defense,” Salmans said. “I was pretty frustrated because we shot so well in the first half. I mean it felt like we’re hitting everything, I look up and we’re up 4.”

He said the halftime speech wasn’t real long. There just wan’t much to talk about in terms of offense, he said.

“They just weren’t talking, no effort on defense in my opinion,” Salmans said. “That tightened up for us, and that’s where we got the separation, was making a few stops in the third quarter.”

Kiowa County junior Cooper Zenger had a team-high 14 points. Senior Camden VandenHoek had 12 and senior Cale Thompson had 10.

Hodgeman County junior Eli Salmans had 14 and sophomore Isaac Salmans had 15.

The Longhorns were led on the scoreboard by senior Thatcher Lackey, who had a game-high 21 points.

“He’s very good with the ball in his hands and his back to the basket,” Salmans said. “He’s 6’4, and so (the offense) goes through him. The kids, they don’t get the open shots on the outside unless he’s down there getting a touch. The kids know that, and so if they get it to him they get it back. It was a good inside-outside game today. I was proud of the kids.”

But while the defense improved and was able to help the Longhorns build the lead, Salmans begrudgingly said part of what allowed the Longhorns to keep their composure and keep the strong Kiowa County scorers at bay was the offense. The kids made shots, he said.

“It’s not a good way to go in, thinking that we’re going to win hitting shots, but that’s kind of what happened out there,” Salmans said. “Every time we needed a bucket we made a shot. It wasn’t a steal or a layup or something. We just kind of kept hitting shots. The kids are starting to shoot well, and that’s good. Maybe we’re starting to shoot well as a team.”