WESTON, Mo. — West Platte missed its lone chance at a free throw in the first half, but late shots at the line proved vital Monday, Jan. 5 at West Platte High School. The Bluejays knocked down 13 free throws in the second half to secure a 35-23 win against DeKalb. The Tigers cut West Platte’s lead to 23-17 less than 90 seconds into the final frame on a 3-pointer from Jaleia Rice.
West Platte outscored the visitors 12-6 over the final six minutes — on only two field goals — to provide the final margin. The Bluejays were 13-for-23 from the line overall.
“That was nice (to see free throws fall),” West Platte coach Jen Lawson said. “We haven’t had that happen for a while. That did help. The free throws really could have hurt if we were missing those.”
West Platte — winners of three of its last four games — travels to Dearborn to face rivals North Platte on Jan. 9 in the Bluejays second KCI Conference tilt. West Platte lost 61-30 to Plattsburg in the conference opener — their lone loss in the last four games.
In the first action since that defeat, Bluejays’ sophomore Nealie Niemeier hit 5-of-8 free throw attempts — all in the fourth quarter — to coast to a co-game-high nine points. Taylor Binkley hit 5 of 6 at the line also tallied nine.
Rice also scored nine, which included the game’s lone 3-pointer. The Tigers finished with a 1-for-11 line from behind the arc. The trey combined with turnovers from DeKalb’s full-court pressure to start the fourth quarter prompted a timeout from Lawson with about 6 minutes to play.
“I just wanted to raise the intensity level,” Lawson said, “taking care of the ball, not to be in a hurry because we were winning. We took some shots that were rushed and forced things that weren’t there instead of waiting for a wide-open shot. Their defense was more intense; they gradually got more intense on defense than what they were (at the beginning of the game).”
Seven Bluejays earned a spot on the scoresheet with Mattie Vandel adding four points. Juniors Gretchen Hiatt and Jessica Lintner added five and four points respectively to round out those with more than two points.
“It’s nice to have four wins,” Lawson said. “Last year, we ended with six wins. We’re up to four. We’d like to beat last year’s record. It’s kind of nice to have four wins in our pocket this year.”