DEARBORN, Mo. — The status of North Platte boys basketball coach Doug Burnett remains uncertain following his absence from recent games.
During halftime of a girls game between the Panthers and West Platte on Friday, Jan. 9, North Platte athletic director Grant Tysdahl escorted Burnett down a hallway, while superintendent Dr. Jeff Sumy shuttled the players in the opposite direction. In his first season with the program, Burnett did not appear on the bench in North Platte’s 64-34 home loss following the incident.
“Coach Burnett is still the coach. He just couldn’t be here tonight,” North Platte principal and girls basketball coach Karl Matt said following the boys’ 60-44 loss to Lawson in the opening round of the Lawson Invitational on Monday, Jan. 12.
When asked when Burnett could be expected back on the bench Matt said, “Soon.”
Whether that is in Wednesday, Jan. 14’s game vs. Trenton in the consolation bracket of the Lawson Invitational, a home date Tuesday Jan. 20 with Mound City or the Panthers’ next KCI Conference clash at Hamilton on Friday, Jan. 23 remains to be seen.
North Platte hosts the North Platte Invitational the following week from Jan. 26-31.
In the interim, assistant Kevin Ginter assumed head coaching duties.
“It’s weird not hearing that voice over there,” North Plate senior Austin Shanks said. “He definitely helps a ton. It’s the voice all of us hear over everybody. Without him, we don’t get as many shots up, don’t get to run as many plays as normal.”
North Platte dropped to 0-2 in KCI Conference play with the loss last week to West Platte, which improved to 2-0. The Bluejays entered Tuesday’s play of the Lawson Invitational as the tournament’s No. 6 seed against third-seeded Gallatin.
The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
West Platte used a strong second half to pull away from North Platte in last week’s matchup. Forwards Conner Salmons (19 points) and Tanner Lintner (15 points) used their size advantage to put away easy putbacks following misses. Cody Guthrie added 18 points in the win.
“When those three guys are scoring like that, we’re hard to beat,” West Platte coach Dillon Higdon said.
West Platte finished the week with a 3-1 record following a win against DeKalb on Monday, Jan. 5 and pulling off a 48-45 upset against Savannah on Tuesday, Jan. 6 before a 38-37 loss at Richmond on Thursday, Jan. 8. The Bluejays picked up their third win of the week with the blowout in Dearborn.
North Platte did not fare much better in their opener of the Lawson Invitational. The Panthers trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter before hot shooting halved the deficit in the fourth quarter.
Shanks (18 points including three fourth-quarter 3-pointers) and junior Andrew Roberts (team-high 19 points) pulled the top-seeded Cardinals back into view, trimming the deficit to 55-44 with 2 minutes to play in the game.
“We’ve been talking all season that eventually our shots will fall,” Ginter said. “The fourth quarter they started to believe in their shots. The fourth quarter I thought we did extremely well. If we can put a couple of those quarters together we should start seeing some more Ws.”