By KEVIN THOMPSON
CIMARRON — The Lady Longhorns get a shot at the substate title game tonight with a hard-fought 53-47 win over Garden Plain on Friday night in the Class 3A sub-state semifinals.
As the old adage goes, they got that chance the old-fashioned way — they earned it.
Holcomb had to overcome more adversity than they have faced all season before gaining the win in Cimarron.
Feeling fortunate to be locked in a 22-all tie at halftime, the Longhorns were just 8 of 22 from the field. Taylor Deniston had sat on the bench the last five minutes of the second quarter with foul trouble, and the Owls were executing at both ends of the floor.
Despite all of that, Holcomb was still in the game, and they eventually found ways to turn deficits into assets.
The Owls took a 28-24 lead a minute into the third period — their final lead of the game — before the Longhorns went on a 9-0 run, including seven points by Deniston, and Holcomb held a 38-35 edge going into the final quarter.
Kylee Amos' traditional 3-point play put her team up by four, and Holcomb went into a half-court stall game to draw out the Owls and open up the lane.
The closest Garden Plain came was two on three separate occasions, but they had to resort to fouling to stop the clock.
Amos' free throws at 1:05 gave the Longhorns 50 points and a seven-point lead as they closed out the game, happy to be moving on.
"It was awesome. The whole team responded, even when they were tired," coach Kenton Tennal said. "We have quite a few playmakers on this team."
Halftime in the Holcomb locker room was focused and intense, Tennal said. He reminded Deniston how different a team they are with her on the bench. Heydman was just 1 of 10 in that half, and he reminded her that shots would fall, but she had to keep playing hard, especially around the boards.
The speech helped, as Deniston scored nine and didn't foul again, while Heydman scored five and handed out a number of assists.
But the biggest play overall came from sophomore post Jordan Jarnagin, who finished with 18 points after going scoreless in the first quarter.
She was 8-of-12 shooting, connecting on two 3s in the second half, including one at 2:27 to put the Longhorns up by five before Amos hit her clutch free throws.
Garden Plain raced to a 10-0 lead with under two minutes played, with Madison Schmelzter burying two 3-pointers, to open the game.
Holcomb answered with an 8-0 run, with Amos hitting her own pair of treys, and she added a third at the buzzer. The defense held the Lady Owls to just three points in the final six minutes of the quarter and the Longhorns were down just 13-11 at the first break.
After the Owls opened the second period with a field goal, Holcomb went on an 11-0 run, including another Amos trey, her fourth of the half, to take a 22-15 lead. But Deniston picked up her third foul at the 5:08 mark and sat the rest of the quarter.
After that, the offense shut down and Garden Plain ended the half on a 7-0 run and things were tied at 22 at intermission.
"They came out firing on all cylinders," Tennal said of the Owls' quick start. "But we were smart, and I told (my team) how proud I was of how they responded."
Garden Plain, which had won seven straight, ran Holcomb's offense, a dribble-and-drive penetrating game, but they ran it more effectively in the first half.
Being down 10 that early would hurt some teams, Tennal said, but the Longhorns responded with their 18-5 run to get back into the flow.
Amos stepped up big in the first half with her 3s. Deniston picked it up in the second half, and Jarnagin just had an all-around great game, Tennal said.
Jarnagin and Heydman were constantly bumped and harassed by Cheney's 5-10 posts, Noelle Dooley and Lizzie Costello, but both responded in the second half to ace that test.
"That's Jordan's best game of the year," Tennal said. "I know she went 20 and 10 against Goodland, but these posts were good."
It was a night of responses by his girls, he said.
Holcomb will face host Cimarron in tonight's final at 6 p.m.
Garden Plain 13 9 13 12 -- 47
Holcomb 11 11 16 15 -- 53
Garden Plain (16-6)--Hays 4 0-0 8, Schmelzer 4 4-4 13, Dooley 1 4-6 6, Liz Costello 1 2-2 4, Hendryx 1 2-4 4, Doyle 5 0-0 10. Totals16-43 10-14 47.
Holcomb (20-2)--Jarnagin 8 0-4 18, Heydman 2 3-4 7, Deniston 5 0-1 11, Amos 5 3-3 17. Totals 19-46 6-12 53.
3-point goals--Garden Plain 3-11 (Schmelzer 3), Holcomb 7-18 (Jarnagin 2, Deniston, Amos 4). Rebounds--Garden Plain 26 (Dooley 10), Holcomb 25 (Jarnagin 8). Fouled out--none. Total fouls--Garden Plain 15, Holcomb 15. Technical fouls--none.