North Platte girls claim elusive KCI Tournament title

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Members of the North Platte girls basketball team celebrate with the first place trophy after defeating Hamilton 57-55 in overtime of the KCI Conference Tournament championship game on Friday Dec. 12 at West Platte High School in Weston, Mo. WESTON, Mo. — Six years passed after North Platte last lifted the KCI Conference Tournament trophy despite taking trips to the Class 2 playoffs in each of those seasons.

The drought ended with a 57-55 overtime win against Hamilton in this year’s championship game, held Friday, Dec. 12 at West Platte High School.

“We hadn’t won this tournament in six years,” North Platte coach Karl Matt said. “We have won the conference three times since then. We talked about that a lot. They played hard and did what they had to do.”

North Platte senior guard Courtney Kipping led the Panthers with 12 points, including two free throws in overtime after Hamilton standout Morgan Prather fouled out on a technical with 43 seconds left. Prather — a Wichita State track and field commit — fouled Kipping for her fourth, then bounced the ball hard off of the floor in frustration to draw the technical and fifth personal.

Prather scored 12 for the Hornets.

“It was very difficult,” said North Platte senior Chelsi Sams, who scored nine points. “But if you get in her head it will affect the way she plays.”

Erin Manville scored 11 points — the only other North Platte player to reach double figures. Her 5-for-8 free throw shooting performance in overtime helped the top-seeded Panthers avoid the upset bid. They were 16 of 35 from the line overall and 9 of 14 in the extra session.

North Platte, ranked No. 3 in the first Missouri Basketball Coaches Association poll, improved to 5-0 going into Tuesday’s matchup at St. Joseph Christian.

“We fought through,” Matt said. “It was a tough, even matchup (with Hamilton), but we toughed it out and got the rebounds we needed to make. We obviously struggled from the line. In the end we got the win It’s still early in the season. There’s a lot of things we need to keep working on. We’re happy to get the win.”

North Platte led 23-22 at halftime but overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half to force overtime.

The Panthers tied things at 35 late in the third quarter but trailed 38-35 to start the final eight minutes. Six different players scored for North Platte in the fourth quarter — two each for Baylie Wilson, Sarah Johnson, Maddie Lee, Brittany Gerling, Manville and Sams. The Panthers survived a frenzied end to regulation with two Hamilton shots missing their mark, including a Kenna Schmidt effort off of the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

“We had our struggles in different areas,” Matt said. “I hope they have the attitude where they don’t quit, and I don’t think they did.

“I just hope we learned how to win a close game.”

West Platte boys 49 Plattsburg 26

Conner Salmons poured in 23 points to lead all scorers, leading the Bluejays to the consolation title on Thursday, Dec. 11. He scored 12 in the first half to peg West Platte to a 26-12 advantage at the break.

West Platte lost its opener in the KCI Tournament for the first time in a long time. The Bluejays defeated Lawson in the championship each of the past two years and were no worse than fourth between 2008 and 2012.

Missouri State High School Activities Association records do not track individual games prior to the 2008-2009 season.

West Platte senior Cody Guthrie added eight points and Tanner Lintner seven in the win against Plattsburg. In all, seven different scored for the Bluejays, including four each from Luke Horseman and McKaulley Stephenson.

Erik Shoemaker led Plattsburg with eight points and Jacob Davis added five from his post position. Coincidentally, West Platte opens KCI Conference play at Plattsburg on Friday, Dec. 19 and then takes the holidays off until Jan. 5 against DeKalb.