Platte County boys hit with another big blow in loss to Belton

Belton opened with a ruthless outside barrage, and a Platte County roster short on experience couldn’t recover. ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior forward Nick Kunels (22) takes a hook shot over multiple Belton defenders during a game Monday, Jan. 4 at Platte County High School in Platte City.

In the Suburban Conference Blue Division opener for both sets of Pirates, Belton hit its first four 3-pointers on the way to making 12 total in a 68-36 win Monday, Jan. 4 at Platte County High School. Platte County fell behind 37-8 early in the second quarter, but even with improved spells of play in the second half, couldn’t avoid a running clock late.

Platte County dropped to 1-7 overall with its sixth straight loss heading into a road date at St. Joseph Central on Friday, Jan. 8.

Kourtni Keith (25 points), DeMon Hyler (18 points), Joe Lind (13 points) and Dallis Smith (12 points) did all the scoring for Belton. Keith and Lind combined to go 4-for-4 on 3s in the first quarter, and Smith scored 10 of his 12, helping put Platte County down 26-8.

Nick Kunels scored the first four for Platte County but then briefly left the game after falling hard on his hip after being inadvertently undercut on a shot underneath the basket.

Platte County scored just six points in the second quarter with Kunels the only player to tally more than one basket. Belton added three more 3s, including the fourth for Keith, as the advantage swelled to 37-8, prompting a second timeout from Hodge with 6 minutes, 9 seconds left in the half.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior forward Jack Doole, left, goes up for a shot against Belton’s Shawn Smith during a game Monday, Jan. 4 at Platte County High School in Platte City.

From that point, Platte County outscored Belton 25-19 over the next 18 minutes, but the damage inflicted early could not be overcome.

“Second half, they played a lot tougher. I thought we started to get a little bit of an attitude,” Platte County coach Hodge said. “First half, we were way too attentive. It was catch, hold, look. There was no attacking.”

Keith hit three more 3s in the second half, including one of three for Belton during a 12-1 run to close the fourth quarter that put the running clock into effect late.

Kunels finished with a team-high nine points, while junior forward Grant Carver (eight) and senior guard Isaiah Ewing (seven) did all their scoring after halftime for Platte County, which played without senior point guard Kodee Martin (illness). Tyler Clemens, a senior, played for the first time since suffering a severe shoulder separation during a football game in September. He finished with two points.

However, nothing provided enough lift for a retooled roster with zero returning starters and only two contributors back from a year ago. The growing pains continue to be evident for a roster that’s not young but lacks varsity experience.

“We have to do a better job taking care of the ball. We still turn the ball over too much. Our shooting has to improve, too,” Hodge said. “It’s going to be a constant process all season long.”