Platte County boys could be tough out in district play

Platte County boys basketball coach Rick Hodge stood on the baseline, whistle in mouth and watched his team practice Monday afternoon. The passes were crisp and they found the open man. The shot found nothing but net. Hodge blew the whistle, stopping play. “Good, good – let’s do it again,” Hodge barked. This particular practice was about to wrap up as the Pirates prepared to face Kearney on senior night Tuesday. The regular season concludes Friday when the team travels to Raytown South, and then it’s time for the Class 4 District 16 Tournament, set for March 3-7 at St. Joseph Lafayette High School. Hodge liked what he had seen in the practice and knows if his team plays up to its potential that it has shown at times this season, it could be a tough team to beat. “Maybe,” Hodge says when asked if his team will be a tough out in the postseason. “We’ve been sharing the ball much better, so much better than the first of the season. If we play like that …… yeah, maybe.” Still, Hodge knows it will come down to consistency for the Pirates, who have shown this season that they can step up and beat anybody. Victories last week over Liberty North and last month over Park Hill have shown that. On the flip side, they have struggled at times against teams they could have – or maybe should have – beaten. “We struggle to score consistently and on defense we also struggle sometimes because we are a bit undersized,” Hodge said. Platte County does not have a go-to player, but it has several players who are capable of stepping up and carrying the offensive load on any given night. Seniors Jesse Eggers – a 6-foot, 5-inch forward- and John Houpe – a 5-9 guard – are both averaging just over 11 points per game. Juniors Topher Kilkenny, 5-10, and Sam Zimmerman, 6-4, have also been playing well and can provide offensive punch. “Because we don’t have a superstar that we know we’re going to go to in crunch time, we don’t draw up a lot of plays for specific players,” Hodge said. “We basically let our guys play within the flow of the offense.” Platte County, 8-13 heading into this week, drew the No. 4 seed at the district tourney and will face No. 5 Chillicothe in the first round at 5:30 p.m. March 3. The Pirates defeated the Hornets in the first game of the season way back in December in the Savannah Invitational. “They’re a dangerous team,” Hodge said. “They have their best player back and it’s going to be a tougher game than the first time we played them.” If Platte County prevails in that game, they will face top-seeded Lafayette in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. March 6. The district championship game is set for 8 p.m. March 7. Last week, the Pirates notched a big win over Liberty North, 77-76 in overtime. Kilkenny led the way with 18 points, while Zimmerman and Houpe scored 14 apiece. Platte County had to overcome the loss of Eggers to an ankle injury during the game and some players fouling out. “I was proud of our team for gutting it out and getting the win,” Hodge said. Platte County traveled to Grandview last Friday and gave the high-flying Bulldogs all they wanted for three quarters before falling 81-64. Zimmerman scored 16 points and Houpe and Jason Upton had 13 apiece.