By BRETT MARSHALL
HOLCOMB — Ashley Baier has seen the highs, lows and now again highs, of the Holcomb girls basketball program.
As one of just two seniors on the Holcomb girls basketball team this year, and the only one to have been on the team all four years, Baier has grown from a freshman playing some junior varsity to being a varsity starter.
She played the role Friday being the defensive whiz, rebounder, ball distributor with little scoring in helping her team to a 59-39 victory over Syracuse in a Hi-Plains League game, bringing an end to the regular season.
The win assures Holcomb of second-place in its last season of the HPL with a 9-1 record and will now take a 16-4 overall mark into Tuesday night's Class 3A sub-state quarterfinal game at home against Goodland (10-10) at 7 p.m.
An observer of if the Lady Longhorns 15-8 record as a freshman and the struggles through two losing seasons (9-13, 10-12), this season has been a change for Baier.
"It's been totally different, a complete change from when I was a freshman and sophomore," Baier said. "I think I've learned a lot about leadership and keeping the young ones calm and relaxed. What I've learned in four years has really allowed me to grow as a person. Basketball is not my best or favorite of the sports I play, but I'm having a lot of fun. This is like a big family and now I feel like the older sister. When I was a freshman, I was the younger sister then."
Friday, the Lady Longhorns took control early with an 11-0 run after Syracuse scored the first four points of the game. Holcomb led 52-30 after three quarters and for the most part the Longhorns played the second half with leading scorer Breanna Gottschalk on the bench after scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds in limited playing time.
"It was very good team effort and we got contributions from a lot of players," Holcomb coach Kelley Snodgrass said. "I think we're peaking at the right time and we're excited about sub-state next week to be at home and then hopefully be in Lakin, which is like home."
Holcomb got a strong effort from point guard, Katie Pfeifer. The 5-foot-4 freshman improved on her 12-point effort at Ulysses on Tuesday by finishing with a team-high 16 points and was perfect from the field. She hit all six of her shots, including 4-of-4 from behind the 3-point line.
"Katie just continues to make good decisions and she's taking the open shots when she has them," Snodgrass said. "I'm just so happy, though, for Ashley to see her contributing and having fun. She's been a big part of our success and we will miss her leadership next year."
Junior Amy Stegman also contributed in double figures with 11 points for the Longhorns.
For Syracuse coach Mark Akers, the loss was another to the 3A schools in the Hi-Plains.
"We've not lost to any of the 2A schools in the league this year and despite what happened tonight, I think we're playing some of our best basketball of the season," Akers said. "Holcomb is a hard team to prepare for and I told the girls afterward that we now are going to the part of the season that we've pointed to."
The Bulldogs got 35 of their 39 points from senior standouts — guard Kamie Rash (19) and forward Kylee Hedberg (16). Rash balanced her scoring throughout the game with 10 in the first half and nine in the second. Hedberg was limited to just four points in the opening two periods.
"We focused a lot of our defense to control those two and for the most part thought we did a good job," Snodgrass said. "Defensively, we've gotten a lot better than earlier in the season."
Syracuse (11-9, 6-4) will host Wichita County on Monday in a quarterfinal game of the Class 2A sub-state. The tipoff will be at 7 p.m.
Holcomb 59, Syracuse 39
SYRACUSE (11-9, 6-4) — Rash 7-12 4-7 19, Sharp 0-7 0-0 0, Gordanier 1-2 0-1 2, Nairn 0-4 0-0 0, Cashler 0-0 0-0 0, Dowell 0-0 0-0 0, Graber 0-0 0-0 0, Hedberg 6-14 3-4 16, Gerard 0-3 2-2 2. Totals 14-42 9-14 39.
HOLCOMB (16-4, 9-1) — Pfeifer 6-6 0-0 16, Lohfink 1-3 0-0 2, Baier 0-4 1-1 1, Asmus 1-1 0-0 2, Gottschalk 3-10 2-2 10, Komlofske 2-6 3-3 7, Boyles 1-7 2-3 4, Pena 1-4 0-0 2, Stegman 4-8 3-4 11, Landwehr 0-3 0-0 0, Harshbarger 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-54 11-13 59.
Syracuse 6 12 12 9 -- 39
Holcomb 13 21 18 17 -- 59
3-point goals — Syracuse 2-14 (Rash 1-5, Sharp 0-5, Nairn 0-1, Hedberg 1-3), Holcomb 6-14 (Pfeifer 4-4, Gottschalk 2-6, Boyles 0-3, Landwehr 0-1). Rebounds — Syracuse 35 (Gordanier 7, Hedberg 7, Gerard 7), Holcomb 32 (Lohfink 7, Baier 7). Turnovers — Syracuse 24, Holcomb 13. Fouls — Syracuse 14, Holcomb 18. Fouled out — None.