Pfeifer's 'super' 2nd-half effort leads Holcomb by Cimarron
By BRETT MARSHALL
KISMET-PLAINS — One could only surmise that at halftime of Saturday night's Class 3A sub-state championship game between Holcomb and Cimarron that the Lady Longhorns' top scorer — senior guard Katie Pfeifer — was looking for a change.
Maybe that's why she could have been playing the role of Lois Lane of Superman fame, and this time went into her own phone booth and came out in the second half wearing a Superwoman cape and took on the role of the Lady Longhorns' chief crusader.
From scoring zero points and sitting on the bench for part of the first half with two fouls, Pfeifer re-emerged with her new persona and exploded for 22 second-half points to carry her team to a 60-49 victory over the previously unbeaten Cimarron Lady Bluejays to earn their second straight appearance at the state tournament in Hutchinson.
By virtue of the victory, the second straight season that Holcomb has eliminated Cimarron (70-46 in 2012), the Lady Longhorns (19-4) will open state tourney play on Wednesday as the No. 5 seed and play at 8:15 p.m. against Hillsboro (21-2) at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
After going 0-for-4 from 3-point range in the first half, Pfeifer, a diminutive 5-4 scorer, got her first trey in a most unconventional way — her shot from the top of the key hit the backboard straight on, bounced down to the front of the rim and back before rolling around and in.
"It probably wasn't the prettiest shot I've ever put up and had go in, but it just seemed to relax me and got me going," Pfeifer said afterward. "I just knew, and coach (Kenton Tennal) said, that I needed to score in the second half if we were going to have a good chance to win."
Both teams battled foul issues throughout the game and 42 fouls were whistled and the teams combined to attempt 55 free throws (Holcomb was 21-of-26, Cimarron was 17-of-29). Each team lost a player via the foul route, Taylor Deniston for Holcomb and Ashtynn Burns for Cimarron.
Holcomb, noted for its 3-point shooting prowess throughout the season, as well as in last year's sub-state final against the Lady 'Jays, were as cold as the North Pole from behind the arc in the first half, going 1-of-10. Yet they were ahead by four, 25-21, at the halftime break.
"Our 3's weren't falling, and we still had the lead and had four starters with two fouls each," Tennal said. "With all that, I thought we were in decent shape."
Cimarron was having foul issues, too, as 6-2 sophomore Eva Koopman got two early fouls, sending her to the bench and then Burns, one of the two leading scorers all season for the Lady 'Jays, got hit with her third foul with only 4 seconds left before the break, and that proved costly, as well.
"We just didn't do some things as well near the end of the first half as we usually do," said Cimarron coach David Ediger. "We had some mental breakdowns, but I thought the girls defended the three pretty well all night (Holcomb finished 5-of-22, 4-of-12 in the second half)."
Another critical occurrence came with 5:20 showing in the third quarter, when Cimarron's lone senior, Ellen Waters, went down with an ankle injury and never returned. She had five points and several rebounds up to that point, but is also one of the team's best defenders.
"Losing Ellen hurt in many ways," Ediger said. "She's one of our leaders on the floor, she was defending better than she had all year, and it hurt our depth and rotation the rest of the way."
At that juncture of the game, Holcomb had slowly built its lead to 31-23 thanks to Pfeifer's first two 3-point missiles. She added two driving layups and one more 3-pointer to give the Lady Longhorns a 43-35 lead heading to the fourth quarter. She had scored 13 of her team's 18 points in that stretch.
"She had a huge third quarter, and the third quarter has been one of our strengths all year," said Tennal, who is in his first year coaching in Holcomb. "Cimarron's a much, much better team than they were a year ago, and we knew it would be tough. It's a shame somebody had to lose this one."
Holcomb's biggest lead came at 51-39 with 4:23 remaining, before Cimarron made one final push, going on an 8-2 run, cutting the lead to six, 53-47, with 56 seconds left. Pfeifer iced the victory by knocking down 7-of-8 free throws in the closing moments.
In addition to Pfeifer's game-high 22, forward Haley Heydman pitched in with 15 points and Deniston added 10. The Lady Longhorns finished 17-of-47 from the field (36.1 percent) and just 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from behind the arc. They were 21-of-26 at the free throw line (80.7 percent).
Cimarron, meanwhile, got 16 points from sophomore Morgan Ediger and 12 points from Koopman, who also had 6 rebounds to lead her team in that category. The Lady 'Jays were 12-of-33 from the field (36.3 percent), 8-of-23 from 3-point range (34.7 percent) and were 17-of-29 at the charity stripe (58.6 percent).
It was a bittersweet ending for the Bluejays after rolling through the season unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the state at the end of the regular season. But with Waters being the only graduating player, Ediger's team is poised for another strong run next year.
"Nobody gave us much of a chance this season," Ediger said.
Holcomb 16 9 18 17 -- 60
Cimarron 15 6 14 14 -- 49
Holcomb (19-4) — Pfeifer 5-11 9-11 22, Jarnagin 1-3 1-2 3, Prieto 0-1 3-3 3, Heydman 7-13 0-0 15, Deniston 3-7 3-4 10, Amos 1-6 2-2 4, Pena 0-1 3-4 3, Foreman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 21-26 60.
Cimarron (22-1) — Dupree 1-2 0-0 3, Burns 2-5 2-3 8, Blattner 0-1 1-2 1, Hoskinson 1-5 1-2 4, Waters 2-2 0-0 5, Ediger 3-13 7-9 16, E. Koopman 3-5 6-13 12. Totals 12-33 17-29 49.
3-point goals--Holcomb 5-22 (Pfeifer 3-8, Prieto 0-1, Heydman 1-3, Deniston 1-4, Amos 0-5, Foreman 0-1), Cimarron 8-23 (Dupree 1-2, Burns 2-4, Blattner 0-1, Hoskinson 1-4, Waters1-1, Ediger 3-11). Rebounds--Holcomb 30 (Jarnagin 6), Cimarron 25 (Koopman 6). Turnovers--Holcomb 13, Cimarron 19. Fouls--Holcomb 23, Cimarron 19. Fouled out--Holcomb (Deniston), Cimarron (Burns).