By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — "Co-champs of the GWAC" has a good ring to it.
That's just what the Holcomb Lady Longhorns added to their list of accolades this season as they defeated Great Western Activities Conference foe Ulysses, 42-35.
The win secures the Longhorns' first-round Class 3A sub-state game next Monday at home.
Better yet, it means almost a week to rest, heal and practice.
After games Friday and Monday, Tuesday night's matchup against the Lady Tigers took its toll on an exhausted Holcomb team.
Artistic, this game was not. Instead of a Thomas Kincade oil scene, it resembled Dali at his weirdest.
Shots weren't falling, they were being out-rebounded, and they turned the ball over too many times.
Worse yet, they had to come back late in the game just to get the win.
Ulysses was the dominant team out of the blocks. Just seconds into the game, Kaylea Britton bombed a three, then a 2-pointer a few minutes later, and yet another to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
That's because Holcomb couldn't hit a field goal from anywhere on the floor. They were 0-for-11 in the first quarter, but four free throws at least kept them close.
Things improved in the second as Holcomb closed the gap to just 17-14 at the half.
Then the second half started and Holcomb looked more like the team that finished 17-3 in the regular season.
After Britton drove the floor for a layup to give Ulysses a 23-16 lead, Holcomb's defense stopped the Tigers the rest of the quarter, forcing seven turnovers and three missed shots on their next 10 possessions.
Meanwhile, Holcomb overtook them for a two-point lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Back-and-forth action in the fourth got the score to 35-all at 2:17 remaining before a 7-0 run produced Holcomb's victory.
Shooting-wise, the game was a nightmare for both teams. Combined, they were 23-of-107 from the floor, both shooting 22 percent.
Holcomb made up the difference at the line, going 21-for-32 while Ulysses was just 7-for-13.
It was just a strange game from all sides for Holcomb, but the win was still sweet for coach Kelly Snodgrass.
"When the shots don't fall, we don't look very good," she said. "We didn't rebound very well. We had a lot of turnovers (13). That was our third game in a row with no practices and it showed."
Ulysses coach Eric Flaton said his team is starting to get better at the right time.
Beating a press was something the Tigers needed to work on, and using the 6-0 Britton to bring the ball up the court seems to be the solution.
"It lets our guards relax a bit and takes some pressure off them," Flaton said. "She can go inside and come outside and dribble the ball."
While Britton led the Tigers with 11 points, she hit just 4-of-22 attempts and didn't get to the line at all. Amanda Langley added nine points, with seven of those coming in the fourth quarter to keep the Lady Tigers close.
Breanna Gottschalk, despite just hitting 4-of-14 shots, led Holcomb with 13 ponts. Katie Pfeifer added nine and Kylee Amos eight.
With no game until Monday, Snodgrass is looking forward to using the interim wisely.
"The girls will refocus," Snodgrass said. "We'll come back to practice hard and hopefully make a run and the shots will fall."
The first-round (Class 3A) opponent will most likely be Scott City, which will be the fifth time the two have faced each other this season, with Holcomb winning all of them.
With newfound defensive intensity and peaking at the right time, Flaton is hoping to use the momentum next Tuesday at Pratt (Class 4A).
"We haven't had many close games like this," he said. "Boy, was it good to get one now going into substate."
This was Holcomb's final regular season as it heads into sub-state next week.
Holcomb 42, Ulysses 35
Ulysses 7 10 6 12 -- 35
Holcomb 4 10 11 17 -- 42
Ulysses — Langley 3 3-9 9, Baldwin 1 0-0 2, Rodriguez 3 0-0 7, Chavez 1 2-2 4, S. Monzon 0 2-2 2, Britton 5 0-0 11. Totals 13 7-13 35.
Holcomb — Pfeifer 1 6-7 9, Lohfink 0 2-2 2, Prieto 1 2-3 4, Asmus 0 0-3 0, Gotschalk 4 5-6 13, Amos 3 2-3 8, Pena 0 2-4 2, A. Stegman 1 0-2 2, Landwehr 0 2-2 2. Totals 10 21-32 42.
3-point goals — Ulysses 2 (Rodriguez 1, Britton 1), Holcomb 1 (Pfeifer 1). Rebounds — Ulysses 30 (Britton 13), Holcomb 25 (Gottschalk 8). Turnovers — Ulysses 18, Holcomb 13.