By BRETT MARSHALL
HUTCHINSON — There were no mysteries between the Holcomb Lady Longhorns and the Hillsoboro Lady Trojans in their opening round Class 3A state basketball game Wednesday night at the Sports Arena.
Holcomb used its 3-point barrage to counter Hillsboro's inside game, but in the end it was a dagger-like 3-pointer by Hillsboro that put the Lady Longhorns in a hole in which they could not climb out.
Hillsboro was deadly at the free throw line down the stretch, and the end result was a 53-45 victory, thus ending what the Longhorns had hoped was a deeper run into the tourney after being eliminated in round one in 2012.
The biggest trey of the night came from Hillsboro's Addie Lackey to complete an 8-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, providing the Trojans with a 38-35 advantage that they would not relinquish.
"The difference? Their shots rolled around and went in at the end, ours didn't go in, and they got some calls and we didn't get some calls," Holcomb first-year coach Kenton Tennal said. "They're well-coached, they did what we expected of them."
Holcomb had led from the early going, but never could quite get the separation that Tennal had hoped for, or that he had seen from his team throughout this season.
"I thought we had some opportunities there in the second quarter to build a little more of a lead, but we just couldn't quite get there," Tennal said.
After opening a 16-12 lead at the end of the first, thanks in part to three 3-pointers — two by Taylor Deniston and one by Katie Pfeifer — the Longhorns then made it a six-point edge, 22-16 and 24-18 before Hillsboro got two critical baskets in the final 1:15, including a 10-foot baseline runner by Lackey just nano-seconds before the halftime buzzer sounded.
That made it 24-22 at the break.
At the outset of the third quarter, Hillsboro tied it before Holcomb went on a 7-0 run to go up 31-24. By the end of the hard-fought period, Hillsboro had closed to within 33-30.
"They're a really good team, and they gave us everything I thought they would," Hillsboro coach Nathan Hiebert said. "We saw them at our tournament. They've got five, six, seven girls who can shoot the three, put the ball on the floor. They're tough to defend."
Finally, though, after three quarters, the Trojans found something that worked. And that was the ball bouncing into the hall on several occasions.
"We were getting the kind of shots we wanted early, they just weren't falling," Hiebert said. "And I thought we did a good job of getting inside late to get to the free throw line. That was big for us, too."
The Lady Longhorns, who finish 19-5, were led by Pfeifer and Deniston with 14 points each, and Kyshia Prieto added 10. Hillsboro got 14 points from Loewen, 13 from Lackey and 10 points from Danae Bina. The Lady Trojans advance to Friday's semifinal against top-seeded and unbeaten Burlington, which survived a scare against Sabetha, winning 48-46. In other first-round games, it was Garden Plain rolling by Riley County 57-34 and Russell upsetting No. 3 seed Caney Valley, 50-42.
Holcomb 16 8 9 12 -- 45
Hillsboro 12 10 8 23 -- 53
Holcomb (19-5) — Pfeifer 4-8 3-6 14, Jarnagin 0-2 0-0 0, Prieto 3-5 4-4 10, Heydman 0-5 0-0 0, Deniston 5-11 1-2 14, Amos 2-5 0-0 5, Pena 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 15-37 8-12 45.
Hillsboro (22-2) — Duerksen 1-2 0-0 2, Schlehuber 3-5 2-2 8, Ratzlaff 1-1 0-0 2, Bina 4-9 2-3 10, Loewen 2-8 10-10 14, Morris 0-0 0-1 0, Lackey 6-11 0-0 13, Winter 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 19-38 14-16 53.
3-point goals--Holcomb 7-17 (Pfeifer 3-6, Prieto 0-1, Heydman 0-1, Deniston 3-5, Amos 1-4), Hillsboro 1-10 (Duerksen 0-1, Schlehuber 0-2, Bina 0-3, Lackey 1-4). Rebounds--Holcomb 21 (Amos 7), Hillsboro 25 (Loewen 9). Assists--Holcomb 10 (Pena 3), Hillsboro 12 (Lackey 4). Turnovers--Holcomb 10, Hillsboro 9. Fouls--Holcomb 18, Hillsboro 13. Fouled out--none.