Defense fuels 10-second 6-0 run in North Platte girls' easy win vs. Hamilton

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte senior forward Brittney Gerling, lower right, fights for a loose ball against Hamilton during KCI Conference play on Friday, Jan. 22 at North Platte High School in Dearborn, Mo. DEARBORN, Mo. — North Platte took complete control of a KCI Conference matchup with Hamilton early in the second quarter on Friday, Jan. 22 at North Platte High School.

The Panthers rattled off six points in a span of less than 10 seconds and cruised to a 55-28 win. Their pressure defense stymied Hamilton for the entire second quarter, limiting the Hornets to just two points.

The suffocating effort included back-to-back steals following a pair of free throws that stretched North Platte’s lead to 24-7, and the Panthers went into halftime up 31-9.

“Defense the whole first half was excellent,” North Platte coach Ryan Davis said. “I think in the first half the only thing I was unhappy with was we fouled them a couple of times and got into some foul trouble. Other than that, I thought the pressure was great. I thought the help was great.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte senior guard Erin Manville, right, eyes a shot against Hamilton on Friday, Jan. 22 at North Platte High School in Dearborn, Mo.

“Defense is how we’re going to have to make our money. I feel like the last three or four games we’re starting to put it together.”

North Platte improved to 11-3 overall ahead of this week’s North Platte Invitational with wins in five of the past six games with the lone loss an offense-starved 31-29 result vs. Richmond in the previous week’s Lawson Invitational championship game.

The defense continues to click and showed off a little following Manville’s two free throws early in the second quarter. After wholesale substitutions during the stoppage in play, senior forwards Kailey Pike and Brittney Gerling added quick buckets on steals off the ensuing inbounds plays.

The dizzying sequence only reaffirmed the domination to that point, and the Panthers didn’t let up until the second half.

“We had a really good first half,” said Manville, who finished with a team-high 14 points — six in the second quarter. “We played really well. It was fun. It gave us a lot of confidence. It was a really good start. Those good starts, it keeps building the momentum for the game. If you start off good, you’ll likely end good.”

Manville’s minutes continue to increase since returning from a second ACL surgery in two years. She debuted before the Christmas break, and her tenacious defensive effort coupled with experience has provided a lift.

Gerling, Manville, Emmie Lee and Maddie Lee have all contributed since their freshman season, helping North Platte to two playoff appearances. The Panthers lost to Hamilton last year, and the senior core, which also includes Pike, Holly Sanders and Kaycee Hodgson, have designs on a playoff return with the roster back to full strength.

“It feels good to be back,” Manville said. “It’s the second ACL , and it’s hard to get back. It was way easier the second time I would say, just because I knew what to expect and how to deal with it.”

North Platte now owns two wins this season against Hamilton, the defending Class 2 District 16 champion who beat the Panthers 63-61 in overtime of the title game last season to end their six-year streak of playoff appearances.

Ten players scored for North Platte in a rematch of a first round KCI Conference Tournament matchup with Maddie Lee and sophomore guard Gracie Roach each adding nine points. Roach’s total included a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer that sent the Panthers to the locker room with a 22-point advantage.

Lathrop 37, West Platte 31

The Bluejays fell behind early and made only 12 shots in a KCI Conference loss Friday, Jan. 22 in Lathrop, Mo.

Gretchen Hiatt and Sadie Kleman scored seven points apiece with Hiatt hitting West Platte’s only 3-pointer. The Bluejays lost their fifth straight heading into a competitive field at the North Platte Invitational, including two in league play.