WESTON, Mo. — North Platte principal, girls basketball coach, and now superintendent-to-be Karl Matt had an eventful Saturday on Dec. 6.
The Panthers cruised into the semifinals of the KCI Conference Tournament with a 64-20 victory against Mid-Buchanan at West Platte High School, just hours after Matt learned of his hire to be the next superintendant of the North Platte R-I School District. North Platte, the No. 1 seed, easily dispatched the Dragons behind 27 points from senior Chelsi Sams, added 11 rebounds — four offensive boards in one possession — to finish with a double-double.
“We’re not the biggest team around, but we’re pretty athletic.” Matt said. “Any basketball game, the more offensive rebounds you get, the better you are going to do. We’ve got to keep doing that. A lot of that is we’re never going to out-size people, but we get in the proper position and are aggressive to get the ball. We try to instill in them a relentless type attitude, which I think we do defensively. We want to do the same thing rebounding.”
North Platte did not allow a point in the fourth quarter, and Mid-Buchanan scored only four total in the second half. The Panthers’ full court pressure forced key turnovers in the third quarter as the lead swelled to force a running clock.
Brittney Gerling — an all-conference performer a year ago — added 10 points for North Platte, and in all, nine Panthers ended up on the score sheet, including seven from junior guard Erin Manville and five from Kaycee Hodgson.
“We executed a lot better,” Matt said. “We finished our shots better. We ran the floor better. We guarded better. Overall, we did better. We just sharpened up a few things that were not overly, but a touch sloppy in the first half.”
North Platte (4-0) moved on to the Tuesday, Dec. 9 semifinal against East Buchanan and advanced to the championship game with a 62-43 victory. North Platte’s lone loss of the regular season in 2013-14 came in the semifinals of the KCI tournament a year ago. The Panthers rebounded to take the third-place game, which started a 23-game winning streak.
The winners of Tuesday’s semifinals are scheduled to play the championship at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, also at West Platte High School.
Lawson girls 52, West Platte 35
The third-seeded Cardinals stayed alive with a consolation bracket win Monday, Dec. 8 at West Platte High School after suffering a first-round upset over the weekend.
West Platte eliminated after two games. The Blue Jays lost 43-20 in the opening round to second-seeded Hamilton before encountering traditional powerhouse Lawson in the second matchup.
Mattie Vandel, a senior, and Gretchen Hiatt, a junior, led West Platte with eight points apiece against Lawson, which beat the Bluejays in the first round of last year’s KCI Tournament.
Vandel scored a team-high 13 points in the loss Hamilton.
West Platte returns to action at home on Monday, Dec. 15 against KC Lutheran, last year’s runner-up in the Class 2 District 15 Tournament.
West Platte boys 38, Lathrop 35
The Bluejays advanced to the consolation final behind 10 points apiece from senior guard Cody Guthrie and senior forward Conner Salmons. Sophomore Luke Horseman and junior Tanner Lintner each added six points in the win.
West Platte dropped into the loser’s bracket after a 51-45 loss to No. 4 seed Hamilton in the tournament’s opening round last week. The Bluejays advance to face Plattsburg for fifth place at 5 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11.
Plattsburg defeated North Platte in the other consolation semifinal.
Against Hamilton, West Platte held the advantage at the end of each quarter but the last, allowing the Hornets to score 19 points in the final 8 minutes.
“Hamilton’s a good basketball team,” first-year West Platte coach Dillon Higdon said. “They take advantage of your mistakes, and we just made too many mistakes tonight. Our guys played extremely hard. We kept fighting to the very end and gave ourselves a chance if a couple of things would have gone our way. But it didn’t.”
Hamilton’s Jaran Richman scored just three of his game-high 16 points in the final frame — all from the free-throw line to salt the game away down the stretch. The junior’s second of two third-quarter 3s helped cut West Platte’s 34-29 lead to a single possession entering the final quarter.
Guthrie finished with a team-high 12 points, and junior forward Tanner Lintner and Salmons each added 10. Senior guard Ben Heili scored eight, including six after halftime.
“Balanced scoring is extremely important,” Higdon said. “That’s going to kind of be our thing. We’re looking to have two or three guys in double figures every game. So far we’ve been able to do that, and it’s helped us in every game.”
Plattsburg boys 43 North Platte 41
The Panthers bowed out with a loss Monday, Dec. 8 at West Platte High School.
Facing Plattsburg, they held a 31-29 advantage heading to the fourth quarter before poor free throw shooting allowed the seventh-seeded Tigers to escape with the win.
North Platte finished 10-for-19 at the line overall but were just 4-for-11 in the fourth quarter. Panthers junior Andrew Roberts scored a game-high 25 points in the loss, but no other North Platte player scored more than the five seniors Kyle Bledsoe and Austin Shanks recorded.
In the opening round, No. 3 Lawson recorded a 57-42 win behind a team-high 16 points for Mason Cox to send the Panthers to the consolation bracket. Roberts again led all scorers with 22, while Shanks and senior Jerry Copenhaver each added seven.
North Platte dropped to 1-3 to start the season with the lone win at home against Lone Jack, and the Panthers now play four straight road dates during the next month, starting with a trip to St. Joseph Christian on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The Panthers’ next home game is Jan. 9 against West Platte.