DEARBORN, Mo. — Karl Matt called a timeout with 30 seconds left in the first quarter, North Platte clinging to a three-point lead.
The words delivered from the Panthers coach rang out in their home gymnasium and his players took heed, turning on the jets for a 52-22 win against Northland Christian in the opening round of the North Platte Invitational on Monday, Jan. 26. The top-seeded hosts entered off an important KCI Conference game against Hamilton three days earlier and were slow to force the non-MSHSAA affiliated Trailblazers into submission
“We just needed a little more energy,” Matt said. “I thought they responded. We’re coming off of a big game on Friday night, obviously. Coming back on Monday, it took a little bit to get going, but once they got going, they did fine.”
North Platte started to pull away in the second quarter after senior guard Courtney Kipping caught fire behind the arc. She nailed three 3-pointers in the frame to help build a 26-11 lead at the break.
“It was nice when shots started to fall,” Kipping said. “It helped our offense get going so it was nice. I thought we started out pretty slow, but as the game progressed, with coach Matt’s encouragement, we started to kick it in a little bit and play harder.”
Kipping finished with a joint-team-high 11 points — all in the first half — to lead North Platte (15-1) along with junior Erin Manville. Eight different players scored for the Panthers — who sit at No. 2 in Class 2 in the latest Missouri Basketball Coaches Association poll.
Senior Chelsi Sams scored eight and Kaycee Hodgson tallied seven.
“You want a balance between inside and out,” Matt said. “We always talk about going inside a lot, but when they’re hitting from the outside, it opens things on the inside up. Especially with a bigger team, you want to stretch the defense a little bit."
Elizabeth Kruse scored a game-high 13 points for Northland Christian — a small Christian school in eastern Platte County who plays in the Kansas City Christian Schools Athletic Conference.
North Platte advances to the winner’s bracket where they play the winner of Cristo Rey and Mound City in a semifinal at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29. Northland Christian (6-5) faces the loser of the same game at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28.
The championship game is slated for Saturday.
North Platte girls 38, Hamilton 35
The Panthers avenged a loss in the championship game of the Lawson Invitational with a narrow victory Friday, Jan. 23 on the road at Hamilton in the teams’ KCI clash. North Platte improved to 2-1 against the Hornets on the season
Sams scored a game-high 14 points — including eight in the pivotal fourth quarter. She was the lone player to reach double figures for North Platte. Kipping added seven, while Morgan Prather (13) and Sydney Bottorff (14) led Hamilton’s offense.
North Platte erased a 30-29 deficit to start the fourth quarter to remain unbeaten in conference play.
“We played a great first half before struggling to score in the third quarter,” Matt said. “Our defense was outstanding all game."
Lathrop girls 61, West Platte 39
The Bluejays entered the North Platte Invitational as the No. 7 seed following this home loss on Friday, Jan. 23.
West Platte trailed 29-16 at halftime against the Mules, who scored 20 points in the third quarter to create even more distance. Mattie Vandel — the Bluejays’ lone senior — scored a team-high 14 points on the strength of four 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Nealie Niemeier hit West Platte’s only other 3 and she finished with five points.
Karen Knox, a freshman, scored eight, and junior Taylor Binkley added seven for West Platte (4-9, 0-3 KCI), which faced No. 2 seed Jefferson in the opening round of the North Platte Invitational Tuesday, Jan. 27. The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.