Platte County boys enter Kearney Tournament off of disheartening loss

Chris Patterson/Citizen photo Platte County senior forward Sam Zimmerman dunks the ball in a game against St. Joseph Central on Friday, Jan. 9 at Platte County High School. Sam Zimmerman opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play and an authoritative two-handed dunk and suddenly Platte County held all of the momentum.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County's Topher Kilkenny (5) takes a shot at the first-quarter buzzer during a game against St. Joseph Central on Friday, Jan. 9 at Platte County High School.

After struggling on offense early, the Pirates’ senior leading scorer seemed to have changed the direction of their matchup with St. Joseph Central on Friday, Jan. 9 at Platte County High School. Instead, the fourth quarter turned into a back-and-forth race, and the visiting Indians pulled back away for a 53-44 win.

Platte County dropped to 3-6 overall entering Tuesday’s first-round game against Kansas City Northeast at Kearney’s Bulldog Classic.

Heavy on seniors and experience, Platte County hoped to trend upward off of last year’s 8-18 campaign. Instead, the Pirates have struggled to close out close games again and lost four of five entering a two-week stretch of tournaments — first at Kearney and next week at Basehor-Linwood (Kan.)’s Bobcat Invitational.

“I agree with that,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “We’ve got to find ways to get over the hump on some of these closer ball games, and hopefully, they continue to learn from it and value those possessions. And that’s what we keep hammering home.”

Against Central, Platte County led briefly in the first quarter, but allow too many big runs. Zimmerman’s five unanswered to open the fourth quarter turned into an 8-1 run after Josh Eastman added a 3-pointer to close the Pirates within 30-28.

The teams combined for 44 points in the fourth quarter after a much-slower-paced start to the game.

“They were very patient on offense,” Hodge said, “and that’s kind of one of the things we wanted to do was change tempo. When we did change tempo and pick them up full (court on defense), that’s when we made a little bit of a run, but as we got close and made it to one possession, we’d give up an easy one.”

The two teams combined for six 3-pointers in the first quarter, including two apiece for Central’s Gage Stagner (11 points) and Jaiden Bristol (game-high 14 points).

Platte County’s Topher Kilkenny beat the buzzer with a contested jumper from the left wing to close the Pirates’ gap to 16-8, but despite a stout defense, they still trailed 18-14 at halftime. Central (4-7) scored just 8 points during a span of nearly 14 minutes but didn’t lose the lead.

Platte County ceded an 8-1 run to close the third quarter after forging ties at 20 and 22.

“When they’re running that much time off the clock each and every possession, we’re not going to get as many possessions,” Hodge said. “We’re not going to get as many offensive possessions and then again we’re not going to be able to score as much.”

Zimmerman scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter, and CJ Fitts and Eastman finished with eight apiece. Central hit 10-of-16 free throws in the final 8 minutes to keep the Pirates at bay, including a 4-for-4 showing to help Arnez Stillman score 10 of his 12 in the frame.

Platte County does not play at home again until a Feb. 3 date with Kearney.

Park Hill South boys 73, Lee’s Summit 70

The Panthers continued to roll since a December loss to Class 3 powerhouse Barstow, nipping the Tigers in a top-tier Class 5 matchup.

James Byrd scored a career-high 30 points, including a dunk, to help Park Hill South overcome a 29-28 halftime deficit. The two teams combined for 54 points in the fourth quarter.

Blake Spellman led Lee’s Summit with 26 points, including all four of the Tigers’ 3-pointers.

Alan Hyatt, a senior forward, added 14 points for Park Hill South, while guard Easton Fortuna chipped in 10. Mitch Henderson (nine points) and Ryan Welty (seven points) rounded out a balanced attack.

Park Hill South took its winning streak into a matchup Tuesday, Jan. 13 against Lee’s Summit North, but the result wasn’t available at The Citizen’s deadline. The Panthers play in the North Kansas City tournament next week.

Park Hill boys 45, Kearney 36

Senior guard Deionte Wilson scored 16 points, helping the Trojans avoid an upset on Tuesday, Jan. 6 at Kearney High School.

Park Hill’s winning streak hit six straight entering Tuesday, Jan. 13’s showdown with Lee’s Summit West and a home game vs. Blue Springs on Friday, Jan. 16. The results of that game was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.

Wilson was the lone player in double figures for the Trojans against Kearney. He hit 7-of-16 shots from the floor, including one made 3-pointer, to help make up for an off night for standout guard Landry Shamet, already signed to play at Wichita State next season.

Averaging 17.8 points per game during a 9-1 start, Shamet tallied just nine against the Bulldogs. The score was tied at 24 entering halftime, but a dominant third quarter helped Park Hill establish control.