KEARNEY, Mo. — Platte County looked to be cruising toward the third-place trophy at the Bulldog Classic on Saturday, Jan. 17.
Then the pace of the game turned frantic following an ankle injury for Pirates senior guard Topher Kilkenny late in the third quarter. Minus its primary ballhandler who also missed a first-round win against Kansas City Northeast, Platte County survived a late run for a 51-45 win against the hosts at Kearney High School.
“We just tried to be strong with the ball,” Platte county senior forward Jake Eastman said. “We wanted to make good decisions to reduce the turnovers.”
Platte County (5-7) led 36-20 after Kilkenny made 1-of-2 free throws after picking up the injury on a foul with 26 seconds left in the third quarter.
With the point guard on the bench, Kearney dialed up full-court pressure and closed the deficit to 40-35 with 2:52 remaining but could get no closer. Eastman scored six of his 10 points in the final quarter to help Platte County reclaim a double-digit lead.
Eastman provided the final score hitting two free throws with 9.7 seconds remaining. He had missed two charity shots with 15.7 seconds to go but corralled the offensive rebound and forced the Bulldogs to foul him again.
“Tonight was a game where our height helped us out,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “We had a lot of shot blocking on the defensive end. Then we had the late tip out, and we controlled the board. It helped us out.”
Platte County senior Sam Zimmerman scored a team-high 15 points and was named to the Bulldog Classic’s all-tournament team.
Kilkenny scored 12 while coming off of the bench. He picked up an ankle injury earlier in the week that limited his availability and re-aggravated it on the third-quarter foul.
“Topher’s our primary ball handler,” Hodge said. “Not only that, but he brings us a lot of other stuff too: rebounding, tough defense and a hard-nosed attitude. Some of that deflated there in the fourth quarter. We’ve played two games this week without him. The kids were a little bit accustomed to playing without him. So yeah, they struggled with pressure sometimes with that, but we got some easy hoops when we broke it.”
Platte County guard CJ Fitts scored eight.
Kearney scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, including 14 from Logan Hinck off the bench. He tallied a game-high 16 points with four 3-pointers. In all, the Bulldogs hit eight shots from 3-point land — six in the fourth quarter.
“They got hot, boy didn’t they?” Hodge said. “They got hot, and they started to hit shots. Their press got them some turnovers and some steals especially with our primary ball handler on the bench.”
Platte County boys 55, KC Northeast 52
The Pirates overcame a nine-point halftime deficit in the first round of the Bulldog Classic to sneak into the championship side of the bracket.
Zimmerman scored a game-high 24 points, and Jake and Josh Eastman added 12 apiece to lead the charge. Minus Kilkenny, almost all of the Pirates’ scoring came from that duo.
Platte County made five 3-pointers total and outscored Northeast 18-9 in the fourth quarter after being down 37-28 at halftime.
Benton boys 55, Platte County 47
The Pirates dropped their semifinal against a Benton team they beat handily during a matchup earlier this season.
Benton outscored them 34-21 in the middle two quarters to create enough of an advantage to advance to the championship game. Platte County beat the Cardinals 66-44 on Dec. 19.
Zimmerman again led the way with 19 points, while Josh Eastman added 12. The Pirates were more balanced in this matchup, though with seven players factoring in the scoring.
Benton went on to claim the tournament title over Harrisonville 69-52.