By BRETT MARSHALL
SCOTT CITY — Neither the Holcomb Lady Longhorns or the Cimarron Lady Bluejays have forgotten how their 2011 basketball seasons ended.
Those two teams, with dramatic victories on Friday night in the Class 3A sub-state semifinals at Scott City High School, will have a chance at redemption when they face off against each other here tonight at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson that begins on Wednesday.
In the boys championship game, it will be defending state champion, No. 1-ranked and 21-1 host Scott City going against Great West Activities Conference rival Holcomb (15-7) in for the right to play in the Hutchinson Sports Arena at approximately 7:30 p.m.
It will be the third meeting of the season between the two GWAC teams and the Beavers have won handily both times.
On Friday night, the Lady Longhorns took the measure with what would be described as a mild upset, holding off the taller Southwestern Heights Lady Mustangs, 51-40, while the Lady Bluejays methodically dispatched of Phillipsburg, 60-48, to reach the title game.
For the Lady Longhorns, it is about moving past last year's double-overtime loss to TMP-Marian in the sub-state semis at Larned, while Cimarron's girls remember all too well how their season came to a crashing end on a last-second, 3-point bank shot by Meade that kept the Lady 'Jays from reaching the 2A state tournament.
Both have plenty to play for and plenty to prove.
The Lady Bluejays, 20-2, continue to show they can win without senior guard Avery Burns, sidelined with a season-ending ACL tear in mid-January. The Lady Longhorns, 16-6, are a youthful group whose roster is covered with underclassmen. Not a single senior wears a Holcomb uniform this season.
Holcomb came out in its game with Heights firing on all cylinders. The Lady Longhorns scored the game's first 10 points and a full-court pressure defense had Heights completely baffled. The Lady Mustangs were so frustrated and inept at the start, that they didn't even get a shot off until 3:45 was left in the first quarter.
That's right — 4 minutes, 15 seconds without a shot attempted. They had 10 turnovers in that futile stretch against an unwavering Holcomb defense that stifled them on almost every possession.
When the opening eight minutes came to a merciful end, it was 12-3 Holcomb. The lead would grow to as much as 11, but Heights hung around and trailed by nine, 27-18, at the intermission.
"They're tall, disciplined and talented but I thought we did a good job of making it a fullcourt game and used our speed," Holcomb coach Kelley Snodgrass said of Heights. "We came out fighting from the get-go and I thought our first quarter intensity was as good as we've had all season."
Heights, though, used its frontline players of 6-0 Sheree Ryan, 5-10 Rachel Stout and 5-11 Whitney Garinger, all seniors, to gradually pull back into the game. Only twice in the game did the Heights girls score outside the lane and the strategy worked for coach Barry Mellen.
A 9-0 run midway through the third allowed the Mustangs to close to within two, 31-29, with 3:24 left and it was still a two-point Holcomb lead before Holcomb's Katie Pfeifer, who had a team-high 16 points, knocked down a pair of free throws with just four seconds on the clock to give her team a 35-31 lead headed to the final eight minutes.
That would be as close as the Mustangs would be in the fourth. Time after time, Holcomb used its quickness to get easy layups from its spread offense or go to the free throw line where they scored their final five points.
Pfeifer, a 5-4 junior, had three 3-pointers and was 7-of-12 at the line for her 16 points. She also grabbed six rebounds. Her backcourt mate, 5-5 junior Kyshia Prieto, slashed through the Heights defense for eight points on driving shots to the basket in the fourth as she finished with 15 points and three boards. Karissa Pena shared rebound honors with Pfeifer as the shorter Longhorns lost the board battle by just a 30-27 margin.
When the teams met earlier in the season (a Holcomb victory), Heights had won the board battle, 41-29.
"We wanted to come out and get some 5-second goals and force them into our tempo," Pfeifer said. "We had to be intense. Their size forced us to make it a fullcourt game and not a halfcourt game. We were able to do the things that allowed us to get an early lead and then withstand their runs."
Heights (18-4) got 16 points from Garinger and 10 points from Ryan, who also had a game-high 10 rebounds. Turnovers proved deadly for the Mustangs as they turned it over 27 times to 16 for Holcomb.
Holcomb 12 15 8 16 -- 51
SW Heights 3 15 13 11 -- 40
Holcomb (16-6) — Pfeifer 3-9 7-12 16, Prieto 6-13 3-5 15, Heydman 3-6 2-4 9, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Deniston 2-4 0-0 5, Amos 0-5 0-0 0, Pena 1-7 4-6 6. Totals 15-42 16-27 51.
SW Heights (18-4) — Jacobs 2-7 5-6 9, Garinger 7-11 1-2 16, Couch 0-1 3-4 3, Coats 1-1 0-0 2, Loya 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan 4-8 2-2 10, Stout 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 15-32 11-14 40.
3-point goals--Holcomb 5-12 (Pfeifer 3-6, Prieto 0-3, Heydman 1-1, Deniston 1-1, Amos 0-1), Heights 1-4 (Garinger 1-3, Couch 0-1). Rebounds--Holcomb 27 (Pfeifer, Pena 6 each), Heights 30 (Ryan 11). Turnovers--Holcomb 16, Heights 27. Fouls--Holcomb 18, Heights 21. Fouled out--none.
Cimarron 60, Phillipsburg 48
Cimarron's girls, who lost a stunning heartbreaker on a last-second bank shot to Meade in the Class 2A sub-state finals a year ago, now are poised with an opportunity to head to Hutchinson.
The Lady Bluejays did it with a balanced scoring attack and an aggressive defense that forced 25 Phillipsburg turnovers.
Sophomore guard Ashtynn Burns led the way with 14 points, including 9-of-12 free throws, senior Lindsay Wehkamp followed with 12 and freshman Morgan Ediger chipped in with 10.
"The balanced scoring was the key and has been a key for us," said Cimarron coach David Ediger. "The girls executed our game plan about as well as they have all year."
And despite the fact that Raegan Vanderplas finished with 17 points, the Lady Panthers' top scorer was held in check for much of the game by a stifling Cimarron defense.
"We managed to make her work hard all night and not let her get much of a chance to shoot the three (0-of-3)," Ediger said. "I thought we did a good job for the most part on their post players."
After getting off to a strong start, the Lady Bluejays seemingly kept any Lady Panther rally from sustaining itself. Phillipsburg never got within seven points after falling behind at the outset.
A 24-17 Cimarron halftime lead became a 39-28 Lady Bluejay advantage after three periods. The last time Phillipsburg closed to within seven, 43-36, came with four minutes left in the game.
In addition to the three double-figure scorers, the Lady Jays got nine points from Breanna Bryant and seven from Chelsea Dupree, and many of their points came at critical junctures of the game.
"We've just had to have everybody step up," said Wehkamp of the team's run through the season in the absence of Avery Burns. "Everybody knows what is needed to win, we're having fun and working hard. We were able to execute tonight what we worked on in practice."
For Wehkamp, the season has been all about working hard and working together.
"Last year didn't end the way we wanted it to," she said. "We're more determined and I think tonight we came out and took it to them. Tomorrow, we just have to be ready to play. We're nervous, but I'd say we're more determined in getting to the championship game."
Ediger had high praise for his entire team, but did say that Bryant, who contributed nine points, was a key component of the victory.
"She's played well the last couple of games, but tonight was perhaps as good a game as she's had," Ediger said. "We've got different players who are stepping up and contributing in different ways and that's been huge for us."
The Lady Jays made their first five shots of the game, including a pair of 3-pointers from Ashtynn Burns and Morgan Ediger. That provided them with an early 13-4 lead, only to see it disappear by the end of the quarter when the Lady Panthers answered with a 10-1 run to knot the game at 14.
The second quarter was an exhibition in futility by both teams as they committed numerous turnovers and cooled off in the shooting.
In the final 1:50 of the period, Ediger canned another trey and Wehkamp made a nifty move to the basket for an easy layup to provide the Lady Jays with a 24-17 halftime bulge.
Phillipsburg's top scorer was 6-0 sophomore Mattison Dusin, who scored 19 points and was virtually unstoppable on the inside. She also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds in helping her team to a narrow 31-30 rebounding edge. Turnovers were costly in this game, too, as the Lady Panthers had 25 miscues to 18 for Cimarron. Phillipsburg finishes its season at 16-6.
Notes: Cimarron's Avery Burns, the 5-6 senior point guard who was the team's leading scorer in mid-January when she tore her ACL, has verbally committed to play next year at Seward County. Burns, a member of the 2011 Telegram All-Area team, said she planned to sign with the Lady Saints about April 1. She had been averaging more than 16 points per game for the then unbeaten Lady 'Jays.
Her senior teammate, Lindsay Wehkamp, a 5-11 forward, has signed a NJCAA letter-of-intent with Western Nebraska Community College to play volleyball next fall. The Scottsbluff school won the 2011 NJCAA National Championship. Wehkamp was a member of The Telegram's All-Area volleyball team last fall.
Phillipsburg 14 3 11 20 -- 48
Cimarron 14 10 15 21 -- 60
Phillipsburg (16-6) — Kellerman 1-6 1-2 4, Wilkison 0-2 0-0 0, Vanderplas 5-13 7-9 17, Frantz 0-1 0-0 0, Orr 3-6 0-0 6, Bartels 1-6 0-0 2, Dusin 6-8 7-12 19. Totals 16-42 15-24 48.
Cimarron (20-2) — R. Dupree 0-1 1-2 1, Burns 2-8 9-12 14, Siek 1-3 0-0 2, Waters 1-4 0-0 2, C. Dupree 3-5 1-4 7, Ediger 3-9 2-5 10, Bryant 4-6 1-2 9, Wehkamp 6-9 0-0 12. totals 20-45 14-25 60.
3-point goals--Phillipsburg 1-9 (Kellerman 1-4, Vanderplas 0-3, Frantz 0-1, Orr 0-1), Cimarron 3-13 (Burns 1-4, Siek 0-1, Waters 0-1, Ediger 2-7). Rebounds--Phillipsburg 31 (Dusin 11), Cimarron 30 (Burns 6). Turnovers--Phillipsburg 25, Cimarron 18. Fouls--Phillipsburg 18, Cimarron 17. Fouled out--none.