By BRETT MARSHALL
It was the girls basketball's version of David vs. Goliath.
The much-anticipated matchup, the first in the schools' history, between Class 3A Holcomb and Class 6A Garden City, two schools located just seven miles apart in Finney County, lived up to, no exceeded, the expectations of everyone — coaches, players, and fans.
Goliath won this battle, but just barely, using a follow shot by 6-2 junior Johna McClelland with just 13 seconds left in overtime, to squeak past David (Holcomb's Lady Longhorns), 57-56, on the final night of the Clarion Inn Southwest Classic at Perryman Athletic Complex.
Following McClelland's putback, the Lady Longhorns couldn't get a shot to go down and then fouled Garden's Casey Curran with three seconds remaining. The 6-0 junior missed both charity shots and Holcomb junior Karissa Pena rebounded, dribbled down the sideline and heaved up a desperation shot at the buzzer that came up well short, preserving Garden's nail-biting, hard-fought win.
Taryn Tempel came up big for the Lady Buffs in the game, scoring 19 points, including 9-of-12 free throws, while her Holcomb counterpart, 5-4 junior guard Katie Pfeifer, showed she can play with the tall timbers, scoring a game-high 20 points that included four 3-pointers and 8-of-10 free throws.
Managing to win the game was a roller-coaster for Tempel and her teammates, the 5-7 guard said.
"It was an emotional battle," Tempel said. "Everyone wanted this game. We've been excited about it ever since we knew we were going to play. It came down to a lot of hard work. It was an aggressive game, there were a lot of fouls (37 for both teams). Neither of us was going down without a fight. Give Holcomb credit, they battled us the whole way and we knew they would."
Garden City used its considerable height advantage to own the rebounding battle, 44-24, as Tempel and Curran grabbed eight apiece. Holcomb, with no player taller than 5-9, was led by Kyshia Prieto's seven boards. The Lady Longhorns, though, countered with a pressure defense that forced Garden City into 20 turnovers.
"We're all familiar with each other and that made it much tougher to get your normal shots," said Pfeifer, who scorched the Garden defense with three treys in the third period.
After trailing by only two at halftime, 24-22, the Lady Longhorns found themselves down 33-22 two minutes into the second half.
"We kind of got down on ourselves but then we got back in it and began to believe in ourselves," Pfeifer said. "It was just really physical out there."
Pfeifer's long-range bombs pulled Holcomb to within three, 39-36, with just under two minutes to in the third, but four points by the Lady Buffs to close out the quarter provided them with a seven-point cushion, 43-36, heading to the final eight minutes.
The fourth quarter was nothing short of a wild-and-wooly Old West shootout. At the 5:32 mark, Garden freshman Jayme Bernbeck hit a turnaround shot to give the Buffs a 49-41 advantage. That, however, was when Holcomb began its final push. A 10-2 run over the next three and a half minutes, capped off by Kylee Amos' traditional 3-point play at the 2:04 mark, pulled the Longhorns into a 51-all tie.
A follow shot by McClelland with 1:55 showing and a Kristen Heiman free throw (the Lady Buffs missed six charities in the final 1:30) made it 54-41with 46 seconds on the clock. Pena hit 1-of-2 free throws with 37 seconds left, Garden's Alex Miller missed two at the 24-second mark, and Pfeifer hit 1-of-2 with nine seconds remaining, leaving the score at 54-43 Garden. Holcomb fouled Miller again and she made the second of two, giving the Lady Buffs a 55-53 lead with 7.8 seconds remaining.
Pfeifer got the ball on the inbounds play, dribbled the length of the floor, sliced her way through the Garden defenders and put up a driving shot that missed with 1.3 seconds showing. She was fouled on the play and calmly made the two free throws that tied the game. Garden couldn't get the ball down the floor in time to get up a final shot in regulation.
Overtime was filled with anxious moments by both teams.
Amos put the Lady Longhorns up 56-55 when she made the second of two free throws with 2:11 left in the four-minute extra period. Both teams missed golden scoring opportunities in the closing 120 seconds, but it wasn't until McClelland plucked off Heiman's missed baseline driving shot and put it back in, and Pena was unable to get down the floor for a final good look, that the game was decided.
"They're (Holcomb) a hard-nosed team and we had a definite size advantage so from the beginning we wanted to get the ball inside," said Katie Upton, Garden's assistant coach filling in for her head coach husband, David, who had to make an emergency trip to Oklahoma for a family medical situation on Saturday. "What worked for us best? Taryn Tempel is what worked for us. Jayme Bernbeck worked for us. Alex Miller stepped up for us. Down the road, we've got to have everyone contributing."
For Holcomb coach Kelley Snodgrass, the game was filled with many "what ifs." Those included 5-9 Haley Heydman being in early foul trouble and eventually fouling out with 1:30 to play in regulation. It also was junior guard Kyshia Prieto battling foul problems, too, and exiting the game with 46 seconds on the clock in the fourth.
"We never hung our heads, never felt sorry for ourselves, the girls showed a lot of heart," Snodgrass said.
In addition to Tempel's 19 points and eight rebounds, Bernbeck finished with 10 points and six boards while Curran shared rebounding highs with Tempel with eight. Amos provided scoring support for Pfeifer with 16 points, including three treys of her own.
In the afternoon game, it was Del City, Okla., powering its way past Pueblo (Colo.) East, 63-37, to finish 3-0 in the Classic while East finished 0-3.
Garden City (2-1) travels to Liberal on Friday for the Conestoga Classic to face Bartlesville, Okla. at 2 p.m.
Holcomb (1-2) will play host to Scott City on Friday.
Garden City (57)
McClelland 3-5 0-0 6, Curran 1-8 2-6 4, Heiman 1-9 5-6 8, Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Brunson 0-1 0-0 0, Tempel 5-10 9-12 19, Miller 3-5 3-9 8, Bernbeck 3-4 4-5 10, Hinde 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-43 25-40 57.
Pfeifer 4-8 8-10 20, Prieto 2-6 4-8 8, Heydman 2-7 1-1 5, Mongeau 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Deniston 0-5 0-0 0, Amos 5-12 2-5 16, Pena 1-3 5-6 7. Totals 14-41 21-31 56.
Garden City 7 17 19 12 2 -- 57
Holcomb 9 13 14 19 1 -- 56
3-point goals--Garden City 2-8 (Curran 0-1, Heiman 1-4, Miller 1-3), Holcomb 7-15 (Pfeifer 4-7,l Prieto 0-2, Heydman 0-1, Amos 3-5). Rebounds--Garden City 44 (Curran, Tempel 8 each), Holcomb 24 (Prieto 7). Turnovers--Garden City 20, Holcomb 17. Fouls--Garden City 22, Holcomb 26. Fouled out--Holcomb (Prieto, Heydman).