DEARBORN, Mo. — Doug Burnett implored his players to up the ball pressure as the fourth quarter ticked away during a matchup with West Platte in the opening round of the North Platte Invitational.
The Panthers coach tried to up the tempo in an effort to overcome a 10-point deficit. After a strong run, West Platte salted the game away with free throws and easy looks after breaking the press in a 53-41 win on Monday, Jan. 26 at North Platte High School.
“Our defensive intensity was a lot better and rebounding,” said Burnett, the first-year head coach who missed the two teams’ first matchup of the year on Jan. 9 — a 64-34 win for West Platte — for undisclosed reasons. “We’ve been focusing on it in practice, and I’m sure they’re real sick of me chewing on them all the time. It was good to see them get after it on defense. It was all defensive intensity. We picked it up. Our seniors started to be vocal leaders and leading that charge.”
North Platte trailed 36-26 but opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, prompting a timeout from West Platte coach Dillon Higdon. The Bluejays eventually answered with 13 unanswered.
West Platte forward Conner Salmons benefited from the increased up-court pressure, collecting passes off the break to score six of his game-high 16 points in the final quarter. His three-point play with 2 minutes, 11 seconds to play pushed the lead back to double figures after North Platte’s initial surge.
The advantage didn’t dip back into single digits.
“We really emphasized better passes — not making the risky passes, passing to the open man, not turning the ball over,” Salmons said. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first three quarters, and we minimized them in the fourth.”
West Platte senior Tanner Linter added 14 — including nine in the second quarter to help build a 24-13 lead. Guards Luke Horseman (11) and Cody Guthrie (eight) rounded out the top four scorers for West Platte (13-4), which avoided an early upset as the second seed in the tournament.
“We needed to get back to our stuff, trusting our stuff and executing our stuff,” Higdon said. “We just got away from it a little bit. Give North Platte credit. (Burnett) had them playing hard. The kids were excited, and they got the momentum. After the timeout, we were able to come out and have some quality possessions.”
North Platte junior Andrew Roberts tallied a team-high 14 points while Austin Shanks (11) and Kyle Ewing (10) also reached double figures.
North Platte (2-13) faces the loser of Mound City and Cristo Rey at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28 while West Platte takes on the winner at the same time on Thursday, Jan. 29.
West Platte boys 56, Lathrop 48
The Bluejays remained unbeaten in KCI Conference play with a win Friday, Jan. 23 at West Platte High School.
Trailing 10-6 after the first quarter, West Platte rebounded to win their third straight in KCI play. Lintner scored 16 points, while Salmons (14) and Guthrie (10) also reached double figures for the Bluejays.
Hamilton boys 73, North Platte 55
LaTroy Harper led a contingent of five double-figure scorers for the Hornets on Friday, Jan. 23 at Hamilton High School. The freshman poured in 18 points — 11 in the fourth quarter — helping Hamilton pull away. Korby Ford (13), Telly Harper (13), Mason McFall (10) and Levi Norris (10) also reached double figures for the Hornets.
Shanks scored a game-high 22 points for the Panthers, and Roberts added 21. No other North Platte player scored more than four (Anthony Hernandez and Jerry Copenhaver).
Hamilton led 37-23 at halftime and extended its lead with a 23-13 run during the fourth quarter.