Win or lose, Holcomb girls coach Nathan Novack has always said one thing about his team: This group doesn’t like to lose, and they’ll learn from their mistakes.
Following a tough loss Tuesday at Scott City, they had a chance to prove him correct on the road at Colby, the Longhorns’ third straight road game.
They seemed to overcome Tuesday’s miscues in the first 10 minutes and the final 13, but Colby held on for a 43-39 conference win.
But Novack was happy with the way his team fought back from an 18-point deficit midway into the third period, cutting the lead to just three points down the stretch, coming up just short. Down 30-15 at halftime, Holcomb went on a 19-7 run in a 12-minute stretch in the second half.
Eboni Sapien had 13 of her game-high 23 points in the final period, getting the ‘Horns close, but a field goal and pair of free throws from Colby in the final minute was enough to hold off the Holcomb comeback.
Sapien scored all 10 of Holcomb’s first-quarter points to keep her team close at the first break, trailing 12-10.
Darien Mader’s three-pointer early in the second gave Holcomb its last lead, 13-12, but the 'Horns only scored one field goal the rest of the quarter — a Britni Novak putback — while the Eagles went on an 18-2 run to take a 30-15 lead at halftime.
Following Novak’s basket, Colby answered with three straight treys, and finished with a field goal and a block.
Colby took that lead to 33-15, before Holcomb ended the eight-minute scoring drought with a field goal at 5:14 in the third.
Novak and Gracelyn Rupp combined for seven straight points to pull Holcomb to 35-24, a stretch that saw Colby turn the ball over three straight times and call two timeouts, but the Longhorns were still down at the next break, 37-24, after holding the Eagles to just seven third-period points.
The Holcomb defense forced four straight Eagle turnovers to open the fourth period as the ‘Horns got within eight points. Later, Rupp forced a turnover, picked up by Mader, who passed it to Sapien, who got a layup and a free throw to cut the lead to 39-34.
Two possessions later, Ruda hit her only bucket of the night to cut that lead to 39-36 with 1:26, the closest the Longhorns would get. Sapien’s trey with 22 seconds to play gave her team a chance, but they missed two shots in the final stretch.
Jill Stephens and Vaughn each had 13 points to lead Colby .
Holcomb turned it over just 11 times (17 for Colby) and out-boarded Colby, 18-15.
It was a tale of two different halves, Novack said.
“First half, we weren’t together. Second half, I thought we played better. We did a great job adjusting. A lot of that was our intensity and our communication,” he said.
Holcomb ran a full-court press much of the second half, something they haven’t really worked on since summer ball, Novack said.
“The girls adjusted to it,” he said. “It’s not that difficult, but there are some assignments once they get the ball in. I felt like our girls did a great job after not practicing it a whole lot.”
Holcomb (3-5, 1-3) will play in the Hillsboro tournament next week. With little time to prepare, Novack hopes his team learns from this near-win.
“I’m proud of how they fought, getting down 17, 18 points that third quarter. They chipped at it and started getting momentum. A play here or there, and we could have had the W,” he said.