TOUGH TO BEAT: West Platte boys, North Platte girls enter week a combined 35-1

Challenge for unbeaten, top-ranked Jays is to stay focused

West Platte senior Bryce Cashman was a force inside for the Jays in their victory over Mid-Buchanan in the title game of the North Platte Invitational last week. LEE STUBBS/Citizen photo

The West Platte boys basketball team has made winning routine.

The Jays have won 48 of their last 49 games the past two seasons — they posted a 30-1 record last year and improved to 18-0 with their North Platte Invitational title game victory last Friday. And most of the games have been runaway wins for West Platte, which sat atop the state coaches association’s Class 2 poll heading into this week’s action. While winning is definitely easier to handle than the alternative, dealing with the kind of success West Platte has enjoyed the past two seasons is not without its challenges. “I think at times our guys get bored with winning,” West Platte coach Zane Tanner said. “It’s a challenge sometimes keeping the team focused. Sometimes they think ‘hey, we’re winning, it’s all good.’ We keep telling them that it’s not just about winning the game, but improving every day.” It’s hard to imagine West Platte playing any better than it did in the second half of the North Platte Invitational championship game against Mid-Buchanan. The Jays turned a slim 25-23 halftime lead into a blowout with a 13-4 run to start the third quarter. Another 9-2 run to end the period pushed the Jays’ lead to 47-32 and they never looked back in posting a 58-38 victory. The win was West Platte’s second this season over Mid-Buch and was the sixth time the two teams have met since the start of last season — all Bluejays victories. West Platte senior Adam Roe, who hit his season scoring average with a game-high 22 points that included four three-pointers, said the Jays turned it up on defense in the second half. “I think our defensive intensity in the second half was the key,” he said. “We came out aggressive on defense and really forced the issue.”


When they are on, North Platte girls overwhelm foes, when they’re not.......

North Platte’s Erin Manville drove past a Jefferson defender in the Lady Panthers’ win in the championship game of their own invitational tournament last week. LEE STUBBS Citizen photo

The North Platte girls basketball team looked like two different teams last week at the North Platte Invitational. 

The third-ranked Lady Panthers moved to 17-1 after its impressive 55-35 victory over Jefferson in the championship game of the tourney last Friday night in Dearborn. But that dominant showing was tempered somewhat by North Platte’s struggles the night before in a 36-22 semifinal win over Plattsburg. North Platte coach Karl Matt said the difference in his squad in the win over Jefferson from the night before was evident from the opening tip. “We came into the game tonight with a lot more energy,” he said. “The girls were focused and it showed – they played great.” North Platte threatened to run away and hide in the first half, when its full-court press forced Jefferson turnovers on the Eagles’ first five possessions, resulting in a quick 13-0 North Platte lead. Sophomore Erin Manville did the most damage with all seven of her points during the spurt. Jefferson managed to claw its way back into the game by halftime via the free throw line: the Eagles made 10-of-17 free throws in the first half and trailed by just 10, 30-20 at intermission. But North Platte came out of the halftime locker-room ready to take care of business with an 11-4 run that effectively sealed the deal. Junior Chelsi Sams led a balanced North Platte attack in scoring with 12 points, while Brittney Gerling had seven and Emmie Lee, six. Maddie Roberts, Courtney Kipping, Katie Heese and Baylie Wilson added five points apiece. Roberts said Matt told the team to slow down a bit in the second half. “He told us just to settle down — we were playing too fast in the first half and sometimes we get out of control,” she said. “I feel like we really worked together great in the second half.”