Not even the three-time defending Bloomfield Christmas Tournament champion Kennett Indians were able to block Holcomb's path to a title at the 16-team tournament.
Sixth-seeded Holcomb withstood a 5-0 run by top-seeded Kennett in the final three minutes of regulation before winning the last two minutes of the game by four points to secure a 75-71 championship victory.
"Even if we won the state tournament this win would be right up there with it," Holcomb senior Michael Glover said of winning the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament title for the first time in school history.
Glover knocked down two free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining to account for the final points. The made free throws increased Holcomb's lead to two possessions and made Kennett's chances of tying the game again minuscule.
"You know Kennett is fast," Glover said, when asked what he thought after making the shots. "So you cannot just turn your head and think you've got it. You have to get back on defense and make sure they don't get an open three or lay-up."
Holcomb got back on defense and began celebrating seconds later when the final buzzer sounded without Kennett scoring again.
"There was purple everywhere tonight," Holcomb coach Seth McBroom said of victory. "Our community support was unbelievable with the weather and it being New Year's Eve night. The kids have bought into hard work and doing things right. You have to have character first and they are all good-character kids. From then on you just keep trying to build and improve things. The kids are trying to attack their weaknesses, there is no doubt. Everybody has weaknesses in their games and our kids attack theirs and get better at them so we can play in games like this and have a chance to win games like this."
The Hornets recorded the first eight points against Kennett to take an early 8-0 lead with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
"We were real worried about them coming out at the beginning of each quarter and onslaughting us with defensive pressure," McBroom said. "We came out in the [beginning] and made some good decisions with the ball."
Kennett trimmed the margin to 13-10 by the end of the first quarter and took its first lead at 16-15 with 6:46 remaining in the second quarter. The Indians largest lead of the first half was 21-17 with 5:44 left in the second quarter. Kennett headed to the locker room with a 31-29 lead following a dunk by Kevonte Mitchell with less than five seconds remaining in the half.
"They were going to be ready to go coming into this game," Kennett coach Jim Vaughan said of falling behind Holcomb. "It's the first time they had been in this championship and it's exciting for their program. We had not been in that situation in this tournament. We had been in that situation before. We regrouped a little bit and survived the first half. We lost one of our starters right in the beginning of the game when Harold Weeden got two quick fouls.
"That start was important for them because it gave them a lot of belief right away," Vaughan continued
Kennett's largest lead of the second half was 37-33 with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter. Holcomb's largest lead was six at the 4:14 mark and 4:09 mark of the fourth quarter.
Holcomb led the game 68-63 with 2:21 remaining. Kennett quickly erased the deficit when it recorded consecutive steals and Mitchell scored five points in less than 30 seconds to tie the game at 68-68 with 1:59 remaining.
"We had just come off a high," McBroom said of giving away the lead. "Our crowd was going nuts and they called a timeout. Then they took it from us twice and converted, which is something they are very capable of doing. They are very well-coached and a talented team. We regained our composure. Our theme all night was to try to stay composed and take care of the basketball."
Holcomb's Jamie Massey knocked down two free throws with 1:46 remaining to put Holcomb back on top 70-68. Mitchell made one of two free throws to cut the lead to 70-69 with 55 seconds left.
Ryan Reeves followed with a 2-pointer to push the Hornets' lead to 72-69. Antonio Primer missed a 3-pointer on Kennett's next possession before Chase Davis made one of two free throws to push Holcomb's lead to 73-69 with 29 seconds remaining.
"We knew they were going to foul us," Davis said. "We were just trying to get the ball in. We had to take care of it and whoever got fouled had to make free throws. We had been working on free throws and we just had to execute what we had practiced and knock them down."
Mitchell hit two free throws to cut the margin to 73-71 with 19 seconds left.
Kennett had a final chance to catch Holcomb on its next offensive possession after the Hornets missed the front-end of a one-and-one with 18 seconds left on the clock. The Indians turned the ball over after pushing the ball to half court.
"We went on a good little run there," Vaughan said of tying the game at 68-68. "A run we had to go on and the types of runs we would have liked to have seen more consistently throughout the game. That was a little bit of how we wanted to play all night. We were able to do it in that stretch right there and then lost control of it again.
"We missed a chance to go ahead on a three on nothing break ," Vaughan continued. "I don't know if that was the game-changer, but it sure lifted Holcomb's spirits at that time.
"But what a masterful job Seth is doing with their kids," Vaughan added. "We talked before the game about how they had been composed all week long and we wanted to try to get them out of their comfort zone. They are just gritty and gutsy enough that they didn't get out of that comfort zone. We forced them into some mistakes, but they stayed the course and congratulations to them. You've got to tip your hat to how they handled tonight."
Six-foot-seven center Massey led all scorers with 30 points. He tallied at least two field goals in every quarter and scored 20 points after halftime.
"When we were able to stay composed and get him the ball he put it in the basket," McBroom said of Massey's performance. "That's what he does. He is just extremely, extremely good. He has great hands and knows how to put it in the hole. He's a senior and you could tell tonight if there was any question about if he was one of the best players around he answered [it] . . . Anybody would take him on their team, there is no doubt."
Davis scored 16 points for Holcomb. He had a field goal in every quarter and tallied eight points in the fourth period.
"He's an unbelievably tough-minded and just tough period kid," McBroom said of Davis. "He might be one of the toughest kids I've ever met or been around. He's just gritty, tough and a kid you would love to have on your team. No doubt about that."
Glover scored 10 of his 14 points after halftime.
Mitchell led Kennett with 27 points and played with a noticeable limp the second half.
He tallied 13 points in the first half and 14 points in the second half.
"I think one time he probably slipped on the floor and maybe pulled his groin a little bit," Vaughan said, when asked about the limp. "He tried to compete through it a little bit. I don't know how much of a factor that was. They made it pretty tough for him throughout the night and he still competed. You are going to get bumps and bangs in a game like this."
Antonio Primer scored in every quarter on his way to a 17-point night for Kennett. No other player for the Indians tallied at least 10 points.
"We were going to try to guard Massey with Collin Smith," Vaughan said. "Collin's pretty strong and we wanted him to body Massey pretty good. That meant Antonio was going to have to be a perimeter defender and he's got good hands, plus he moves fairly well laterally. He put himself in some good positions to make some defensive plays."
Holcomb's path to the finals included a first-round 65-42 win against No. 11 seeded Van Buren, 56-44 quarterfinal win against No. 3 seeded Hayti and 52-39 semifinal win against No. 2 seeded Bernie.
"The path to the title was tough and that's one of the reasons everybody loves this tournament," McBroom said. "It's always good and always tough. You are not just going to come over here and have three easy games. You are not even going to have one easy game, really. Van Buren was a heck of team also. They were tough as well. That's why we wanted to get into the tournament was to get better."
It is the fourth straight season Kennett has advanced to the championship of the Bloomfield tournament and the first time it has finished second in the time frame.
"It's nice to be in this game," Vaughan said. "It's disappointing not to win it, but again congratulations to Seth and his kids. They earned it tonight. We are proud to be here, have a bad taste in our mouth and hopefully that bad taste in our mouth leads us to a good second half of the season."
Holcomb (9-3) returns to action Jan 4. when it hosts Campbell.
Kennett (8-4) is off until Tuesday when it plays a Bootheel Conference regular-season contest at Hayti. Kennett and Hayti are both 3-0 in regular-season conference play and squared off in the finals of the Bootheel Conference Tournament last season.