By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — "Frosty Twilight" was the theme for Friday night's homecoming at Holcomb, and for three quarters, the Lady Longhorns kept that theme alive.
After shooting just 25 percent (10-for-40) and trailing by five at the end of the third period, however, Holcomb came alive in the final quarter, doubled its output and beat Hugoton 56-45 in Great West Activities Conference play.
From Holcomb's perspective, the first 24 minutes were just a bad dream.
From the Lady Eagles' perspective, the final 8 minutes caught them napping and cost them a win.
After going ahead 12-8 after a quarter (uncharacteristic for a team that averages 68 points a game), Holcomb went cold from the floor (2-for-11), and Hugoton tied the game at 20 by the half, thanks in part to 6-2 center Nicole Kinser's eight points on easy layups.
Hugoton hit from the outside in the third period on a trio of threes (two by Megan Cornelson, one by Riley Sosa), and its defense held Holcomb to just 3-of-15 from the floor to take that 33-28 lead going into the fourth.
And that's when the sleeping giants awoke.
The Longhorns hit 9-of-10 field goals (three of those from behind the arc), went 9-of-10 from the line, and used a 26-10 run with 6 minutes remaining to get their 11th win of the season.
After finishing 1-2 in the tough Hillsboro tournament last week, Holcomb was looking to bounce back to its true form. It took 24 minutes for that to happen, but the fourth quarter was more the 'Horns' style, coach Kenton Tennal said.
"We think we're one of the best shooting teams in the state, and that's what happens when you get down in three quarters. You just keep the confidence up like we did. That fourth quarter was awesome," he said.
The two losses in the tournament made his girls tougher, Tennal said. If they hadn't learned from that, this outcome could have been a lot different.
"We learned a lot from that, and I'm glad we played those games. I hope we keep playing close games because that's what we need," he said.
Katie Pfeifer led the Longhorns with 16 points, just above her season average. But it was the late play of of sophomore Taylor Deniston that provided the much-needed spark, Tennal said. Nine of her 11 points came in the final period.
"Taylor Deniston is a gamer," he said. "She turned it on when it mattered."
He was also impressed with Pfeifer's fourth quarter, when she hit a three and went 6-for-6 from the line.
That kind of game is what he wants all the time. Hugoton took it away from them for most of this game.
Kinser's inside presence worried his team, Tennal said, but even with her five blocked shots, Hugoton's inside game was vulnerable if Holcomb had just attacked it, as Karissa Pena did in the first quarter when she used her left hand to convert two easy turnarounds. They just didn't do it enough, and his girls need to get used to that kind of attack.
On the other side, the loss was a tough one for his girls, Hugoton coach Andy Gillen said.
"We held them to 28 points for three quarters. Then we gave up 28 in the fourth," he said. "It was more about defensive breakdowns on things we'd worked on all week. I don't know if we got tired or if we just got lazy."
Hugoton (9-4, 3-2) went on a 10-1 run in the second to get the lead before Holcomb tied it at the half. They went on a 10-3 run in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to go up 30-23 before Haley Heydman scored for the Longhorns with 1:11 remaining.
That started a 5-0 run to end the quarter on a positive note for Holcomb and start the downslide for the Eagles.
Besides Kinser's game-high 18 points, all on layups, Sosa had 12, all on threes.
It was the classic inside-outside game his girls have used to get their nine wins, Gillen said. "We've got some girls who can shoot it. We have others who typically hit some threes, but they didn't tonight. We've worked hard on that just because Nicole attracts so much attention down low that most teams will have to double- or triple-team her. We've done a good job with that," he said.
It just came down to the turnovers and critical breakdowns, he said.
Holcomb earned the win, he added, but it was also a situation where his team made mental mistakes that allowed Holcomb to capitalize.
A trip to Garden City awaits his team Tuesday, and Tennal is eager for the matchup.
"It's going to be a fun one," he said. "I love playing in loud environments. I hope we can get everyone to come out and cheer."
Hugoton 8 12 13 12 -- 45
Holcomb 12 8 8 28 -- 56
Hugoton (7-3, 3-2) — Armendariz 1 0-0 2, Hoskinson 1 1-2 3, Parsons 2 0-0 4, Kinser 9 0-1 18, Cornelson 2 0-0 6, Sosa 4 0-0 12. Totals 19 1-3 45.
Holcomb (11-2, 5-0) — Pfeifer 4 6-6 16, Prieto 3 2-2 9, Heydman 2 0-0 4, Deniston 3 4-6 11, Amos 2 1-2 7, Pena 4 1-2 9. Totals 18 14-18 56.
3-pt. goals — Hugoton 6-21 (Cornelson 2, Sosa 4), Holcomb 5-23 (Pfeifer 2, Prieto 1, Deniston 1, Amos 2). Rebounds — Hugoton 24 (Kinser 8), Holcomb 28 (Heydman 6, Amos 5, Pena 4). Turnovers — Hugoton 19, Holcomb 10. Fouled out --Hugoton (Hoskinson). Total fouls — Hugoton 16, Holcomb 11.