The Platte County boys basketball team closed 2013 in high fashion after beating longtime rival St. Joe Benton 72-66 on Friday night. The victory was noteworthy for the Pirates for several reasons, who scored a season-high 72 points and earned their first home win of the year. Platte County entered the contest averaging just over 49 points per game, but lit up the scoreboard early and often en route to improving to 2-6 this season. Barring a few short spurts in the closing minutes, the Pirates were able to control the tempo throughout the contest. The Pirates offense started hot – scored the first six points and eventually led 17-5 – and dominated the first quarter until a pair of offensive fouls slowed their rhythm. “We didn’t really anticipate [the fast start] because they’re a better team than their record shows,” Platte County head coach Rick Hodge said after the game. “So if there’s anything I’m surprised with it’s the fact that we were able to get as much separation as we did early in the game.” Junior guard Sam Zimmerman hit the first bucket of the game – a 3-pointer – and netted seven of his 11 points in the first quarter. Senior forward Jesse Eggers added six of his 10 in the opening frame and went 4-4 from the line. Benton made a run in the final two minutes of the first half when freshman guard Tre Flowers hit back-to-back threes, bringing the Cardinals within 12. The deficit could’ve been cut even smaller if it weren’t for two crucial missed free throws, which killed momentum and plagued Benton all night. Platte County’s aggressive play – another constant during much of the game – got two easy buckets in the final 30 seconds to pad the lead to 40-26 at half. Platte County couldn’t mirror their fast start to open the third quarter, hitting just one shot in the first three minutes. However, that seemingly set the stage for senior guard John Houpe to essentially take over the game. Houpe came off the bench for 10 third quarter points – three consecutive buckets and eight points over a span of one minute – to fuel the Pirates and keep Benton at bay. “It was a career high or close to, I was feeling it [in the third quarter],” said Houpe, who led all scorers with 22 points. “My teammates got me the ball and I was able to hit [my shots] when I’m supposed to.” Up by 20 early in the fourth quarter, Eggers notched his fourth foul and was undeniably conservative in the limited action he saw after. With the 6-foot, 5-inch forward constrained, Benton cleaned up the boards and got the score within 10 after multiple put-back dunks from sophomore forward Macio Harris, who finished with 15 points – all in the second half. Platte County was able to break Benton’s press for the most part, but committed costly turnovers nonetheless.
“Down the stretch they went with a smaller lineup with more athleticism to create turnovers,” Hodge said. “We still have to handle those types of situations better to close out games.” Clutch shots pulled the Cardinals within 71-66 with 25 seconds to play, but Platte County did just enough to prevail at home. The Pirates will hit a two-week hiatus before facing Winnetonka on Jan. 7. Earlier in the week, Platte County lost 62-57 at home to Smithville. Houpe hit three threes on his way to 17 points, while Zimmerman netted 16 points and Jason Upton, nine.