By BRETT MARSHALL
HOLCOMB — You could certainly understand why Holcomb's girls basketball team has had a handful of the Scott City Lady Beavers this season — literally.
Five times the teams have met during the 2010-2011 campaign. And five times, the Lady Longhorns have prevailed.
The latest, and most important, came Monday night at Holcomb High School gym, where the Lady Longhorns produced a 58-45 quarterfinal victory in the Class 3A sub-state tournament.
Monday's victory sends the Longhorns (18-3) into Thursday night's semifinal at Larned against defending state champion TMP-Marian (17-4), a 37-29 victor over Hoisington on Monday.
"It's tough to play somebody five times, I don't care how much difference there may be in teams," said Holcomb coach Kelley Snodgrass. "Credit them (Scott City). They never gave up. They played hard to the end, and we knew they would."
There were two critical stretches in the game, both of which heavily favored the Lady Longhorns.
First, it was the opening 1:45 of the third period when they came out of halftime up by just four, 20-16, in what could only be described as a struggle on both ends of the court for both teams.
Holcomb came out trying to produce a knockout punch, and for the most part, that's what they delivered. An 11-0 run in that 105-second span was enough to keep Scott City from getting any closer than seven points the rest of the game, the last at 33-26 just past the mid-point of the period.
"It was time to step up because it's just a fact that if we lose, we're done," said senior guard Amy Stegman, who erupted for 15 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth quarter. "We just weren't going to lose our last game at home. Five times, wow! You know the odds. They (Scott City) play hard and don't give up. We just knew we needed to go on a big run. We were able to do that."
And it was critical for the Lady Longhorns on a night when their leading scorer — senior Breanna Gottschalk — was held in check. Gottschalk, a 5-10 forward, scored just nine points and was 3-of-12 from the field, but she did grab a game-high 11 rebounds.
"Amy stepped up huge and that's what seniors do," Snodgrass said of her 5-6 guard. "We needed to have a big game from somebody, and she came through. Hitting the threes put the game out of reach. She's just a part of a good, solid group of seniors."
Those three treys early in the fourth quarter sent the Longhorns into what appeared to be an insurmountable lead of 51-33 with 3:50 to play. But the Lady Beavers hung tough, scoring eight unanswered points to make it 51-41 with 1:29 left. Then, forced to foul, the Beavers could only watch Holcomb make 7-of-9 free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
"I don't know that we overlooked them. Nobody in this group had made it out of the first round," Snodgrass said. "This was one of the team goals."
Stegman even admitted that she and her teammates had recalled a first-round exit in last year's sub-state when they lost to Goodland at home.
"You look back and don't want that to ever happen again," Stegman said. "We talked about it and just didn't want to experience that again."
For Scott City coach Mark Campos, it brought an end to a 6-15 season in which his team had a number of close games but couldn't overcome another tough shooting night (14-of-51 for 27.4 percent), something that had plagued the team all season.
"The girls gave everything they had and left everything out on the floor," Campos said. "Stegman came along as the season progressed, and she really stepped up for them tonight. She definitely carried them in the fourth quarter."
Campos had hoped to avoid Holcomb's third-quarter surge.
"We've struggled for some reason in the third quarter, and it was just bad for us," Campos said. "They made that quick run, and it just sealed it for us."
Stegman got scoring support from a couple of underclassmen — sophomore point guard Katie Pfeifer with 13 points, including 6-of-8 free throws, and freshman Kylee Amos with 10 points. For Scott City, junior Audrey Baker scored 11 points, nine of which came on 3-pointers. Senior Carissa Chelemedos finished with a double-double, getting 10 points and 10 rebounds.
On the other side of the Larned sub-state bracket, top-seeded Southwestern Heights, the 2009 state champ, defeated Lakin, 51-32, and Larned toppled Goodland, 57-48.
Scott City 7 9 12 17 -- 45
Holcomb 12 8 17 21 -- 58
Scott City (6-15) — Hess 1-16 7-10 9, Mayer 1-4 3-3 5, Hoeme 2-3 0-0 4, Wycoff 1-1 0-1 3, Nickel 1-1 1-2 3, Baker 4-15 0-0 11, Chelemedos 4-7 2-3 10, Lowenthal 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 14-51 13-19 45.
Holcomb (18-3) — Pfeifer 3-9 6-8 13, Lohfink 0-1 0-0 0, Prieto 0-3 2-2 2, Asmus 1-3 0-0 2, Gottschalk 3-12 2-2 9, Amos 4-7 2-2 10, Pena 1-3 0-0 2, Stegman 6-8 2-5 19, Landwehr 0-2 1-4 1. Totals 17-47 16-23 58.
3-point goals — Scott City 4-11 (Hess 0-3, Wycoff 1-1, Baker 3-7), Holcomb 5-10 (Pfeifer 1-4, Gottschalk 1-3, Stegman 3-3). Rebounds — Scott City 36 (Chelemedos 10), Holcomb 39 (Gottschalk 11). Turnovers — Scott City 21, Holcomb 13. Fouls — Scott City 15, Holcomb 19. Fouled out — Holcomb (Pena).