HOLCOMB — Just two points.
That’s all Holcomb needed in a wild ending to the second sub-state game of the evening.
But those two points in a 44-42 loss to Pratt are all that separated the second-seeded Longhorns from a possible berth in state.
Holcomb came back in the fourth period from five points down to take the lead not once, but twice.
And even when they were down 44-38 with just seconds to play, the ‘Horns still had their chances.
Eboni Sapien hit a trey to pull Holcomb within 44-41 and coach Nathan Novack called time out with 10 seconds to play.
Holcomb needed the steal on the inbounds—and they got it.
The result was Sapien hitting one of two free throws with six seconds to go. Down 44-42.
On the inbounds play, Pratt threw it away again, this time near half court, and with :05.6 seconds to go, Holcomb had another chance.
They got off a shot, but the shot fell short, but once again Sapien got to the line to shoot two.
But the senior missed the first with two-tenths of a second to play. She missed the next on purpose, but Holcomb couldn’t get control for a tip in before the final buzzer.
Holcomb finished just 11 of 44 from the field with only five 2-pointers, and they were 14 of 23 from the line.
Pratt was just 12 of 29 from the floor (all 2-pointers) and 18 of 33 from the line.
It was a tough night offensively, Novack said.
“We just had microbursts. We couldn’t get long stretches of scoring, but we were looking and getting the looks,” he said about three critical stretches of almost no scoring.
The Holcomb girls will look back at the second period as a point of emphasis.
After taking a 10-9 lead after one period on Courtney Wren’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Longhorns scored just three points and turned the ball over eight times in the next eight minutes as the Greenbacks took a 19-13 lead at intermission.
But after the break, Holcomb’s offense finally got going.
Trading points with Pratt for early, they eventually tied the game at 26 on Sapien’s trey at 2:50, but still trailed by three at the end of the period.
At 6:13 in the fourth, Darien Mader’s second 3-pointer of the half and Sapien’s free throw later tied the game at 31, and Wren gave her team a 33-31 on free throws with just under five minutes to play, and two Chesney McVey free throws gave them a 35-33 lead with four minutes to play.
Then the ghosts of period two came back to haunt the ‘Horns, as they watched Pratt go on a 9-3 run to take their 44-38 lead, with Holcomb going 1 for 5 from the floor in that three-minute stretch.
Sapien finished her high school career with 20 points to lead all scorers. Wren added eight.
Kaitlyn Rasmussen had 13 points to lead eight Greenback players in scoring.
Pratt’s zone defense limited Holcomb’s ability to be more aggressive early, Novack said, and it reared its head in the second quarter going 0 for 9 shooting, the bulk of turnovers, and Sapien hitting their only field goal at the buzzer.
“That second half, though, we definitely started picking up the defense and started causing turnovers,” he said. “It made them panic a little bit and uncomfortable. Our girls fought all the way through.”
Down six late in the game, during a time out, Novack said he and his coaching staff told the girls they believed in them, and they responded, just as he knew they could.
It took more than just believing, Novack said.
“We needed to pressure (Pratt) as much as we could before they could throw it in, because the clock was not our friend at that point,” he said. “Our girls talked, and they were wanting to screen away, seal, and flash. That’s how we were able to get some of those steals.”
Despite the poor shooting, his team stayed close and in the game.
“That says a lot about the other things we were doing,” Novack said, such as winning the boards (28-19, including 11-2 on the offensive end) and forcing more turnovers (15-16).
Holcomb finishes the season 10-11, while Pratt (11-11) will face Hugoton in Saturday’s 6 p.m. final at the Holcomb gymnasium.