West Platte boys, girls sweep KCI doubleheader in opener with Plattsburg

WESTON, Mo. — Dillon Higdon found himself reminding his players what to do with a lead in the fourth quarter. Without much experience returning, West Platte struggled early in the season under its second-year coach. The Bluejays found themselves in position to protect an advantage Friday, Dec. 18 at West Platte High School against Plattsburg, doing so in a 49-43 win in their KCI Conference opener.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo West Platte senior Brett Shepardson (2) attempts to corral the ball and go up for a layup in a KCI Conference matchup with Plattsburg on Friday, Dec. 18 at West Platte High School in Weston, Mo.

Not much returned from West Platte’s 15-12 team that lost in the 2015 Class 2 District 15 championship game to Wellington-Napoleon, and retooling waited while the Bluejays finished out a deep run into the Class 1 football playoffs.

“We can learn a lot,” Higdon said. “It’s the closest game of the year. We just haven’t been in those situations very often. We have some inexperienced guys at this point off the year. It takes time to get used to and being in those situations to learn how to be successful. I think our kids learned valuable lessons in the win instead of having to learn them through a loss.”

West Platte’s lead had dwindled to a single possession in the fourth quarter, and Higdon used a timeout to remind his players about running some clock before looking for a good shot. The plan nearly backfired, but Plattsburg blew a layup on one end and West Platte senior guard Luke Horseman hit one on the other end to ice the victory.

A Missouri Western golf signee, Horseman led the Bluejays with a game-high 12 points, including five in the fourth quarter. Senior forward Brett Shepardson added 10, and McKaulley Stephenson chipped in nine.

“We tried to run our offense and just slow it down a lot,” Higdon said. “We just struggled with that so we went to our delay game, which we haven’t worked on a lot because we haven’t been in a situation to use it. They made some plays when it counted, made the free throws. We were able to capitalize when it counted.”

West Platte won its KCI opener after going 0-2 the previous week in the KCI Conference Tournament, including the programs first loss to rival North Platte since the 2009-2010 season. The Bluejays won their first three KCI Conference games a year ago before four straight losses in league play to end the season.

“We’ve definitely known we have the pieces to put something together this year,” Shepardason said. “We’re not the underdogs every game. We learned we can compete with the conference and have a good year this year.”

West Platte enters the break with a 3-4 record. The Bluejays next game will be Monday, Jan. 4 at DeKalb.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo West Platte sophomore guard Karen Knox, right, attempts to knock the ball away from Plattsburg’s Mikaela Valberde (21).

Girls Basketball

West Platte 39, Plattsburg 27

The Bluejays equaled their KCI Conference win total from a year ago by winning this year’s opener in convincing fashion Friday, Dec. 19 at West Platte High School. West Platte sophomore guard Karen Knox scored 15 points, including four 3-pointers in the win.

A year ago West Platte’s lone conference win came against Mid-Buchanan in February.

West Platte’s season has started promising including the program’s first win in KCI Conference Tournament play since 2006 — a 37-22 triumph against Plattsburg. In the rematch, Lauren Moose added nine points on three 3s, and Gretchen Hiatt matched her with nine. Overall, the Bluejays hit seven 3-pointers.

Entering the break, West Platte has a 6-3 record with two of the losses coming in the KCI Tournament

West Platte 57, Hogan Prep 20

The Bluejays started quickly and never looked back to start a winning streak on Thursday, Dec. 17 at West Platte High School.

Hiatt scored 11 of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter. Jessica Lintner added 10 and senior Sadie Kleman scored eight. West Platte senior forward Taylor Binkley added seven for West Platte, who missed junior guard Nealie Niemeier who sat out with an illness.