By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — It wasn't easy, and at times it wasn't pretty, but it was definitely exciting.
Even first-year coach coach Kenton Tennal knew how big Friday's game against Colby would be. He had it circled as soon as the schedule came out.
The showdown between the top teams of the Great Western Activities Conference game lived up to expectations, as Holcomb held on for a 47-45 win to remain unbeaten on the season.
Holcomb held a 15-point lead going into the final period, but Colby's spread defense forced Holcomb to stay outside and remain shotless for the final period, while the Eagles clawed back to within two points before Holcomb nailed free throws late to secure the win.
The Lady Longhorns (7-0, 2-0) found themselves down early — for the first time all season — due to a spread zone defense by the Lady Eagles that forced early turnovers and weak shooting (4-for-11) in the opening quarter.
At one time Colby led 15-8 and seemed in control.
Then Katie Pfeifer nailed a three at the buzzer that turned the flow Holcomb's way, as the Longhorns went on a 9-0 run to start the second quarter before Colby (3-3, 1-1) scored its lone field goal of the period, a 3-pointer by Lauren Bell with 3:41 left in the period.
Meanwhile, Holcomb looked like the team that started the year undefeated and averaging 75 points a game. The Longhorns built an eight-point halftime lead, and increased it to 15 to end the third, thanks in part to Colby canning just three field goals in an 18-minute span.
After that 3-for-19 performance, though, the Eagles brought out their extended man-zone defense, and Holcomb went to a delay offense for the final period.
The delay caused the Longhorns to go without a shot attempt in the final period, while the Eagles found their shooting touch again.
Colby opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run and then closed the gap to 41-38 on Kenzie Curry's three with 2:58 remaining.
While Holcomb could only go to the free throw line, missing four straight at one point, Colby didn't score again until another Bell three with 34 seconds left, closing the gap to two.
But Kyshia Prieto and Haley Heydman nailed free throws in the closing seconds to hold on for the Holcomb win.
Those free throws were huge, especially since the Longhorns were just 12-of-24 from the line for the game. These came at the right time, Tennal said.
The Longhorns' defense helped them build that huge lead heading into the final period, he said, but his team didn't put away the Eagles like they should. Silly turnovers and suspect passes prevented that.
It was, to say the least, a tough win, but one that Tennal appreciated.
"I expected it to go down to the wire. I told the girls they would have to play four quarters, not like it's been the last month or so (of easy wins)," he said.
The middle two quarters featured characteristic Holcomb passing, finding open girls before the defense could adjust. It's when they hesitate with the passes that trouble follows with the shooting, Tennal added.
Karissa Pena led Holcomb with 13 points, all in the first three quarters, while Pfeifer added 10.
Tennal got two solid middle quarters book-ended by so-so quarters, but a win is a win.
"You've got to put a complete game together. Luckily the girls fought hard, played hard," Tennal said. "They played together and finished off the game. It's exactly what we needed for our tough games coming up."
What's coming up is a tournament in Hillsboro in two weeks that currently features five undefeated teams, and this win helped in seeding that tournament.
Holcomb hosts Scott City on Tuesday in another conference game.
Colby 15 3 6 21 -- 45
Holcomb 11 15 13 8 -- 47
COLBY (45) — Shull 4 3-4 11, Ortner 5 0-0 13, Curry 2 1-2 7, Bell 2 2-2 8, Kriss 3 0-0 6. Totals 16 6-7 45.
HOLCOMB (47) — Pfeifer 2 4-6 10, Jarnagin 0 2-2 2, Prieto 2 2-6 8, Heydman 2 2-6 6, Deniston 2 2-2 6, Amos 1 0-2 2, Pena 6 0-0 13. Totals 15 12-4 47.
3-pt. goals — Colby 7-20 (Ortner 3, Curry 2, Bell 2), Holcomb 5-22 (Pfeifer 2, Prieto 2, Pena 1). Rebounds — Colby 24 (Shull 11), Holcomb 16 (Pfeifer 4). Turnovers — Colby 23, Holcomb 16. Fouled out — Colby (Kriss), Holcomb (Pena). Total fouls — Colby 18, Holcomb 13.