DEARBORN, Mo. — As the buzzer sounded, no doubt remained on which team would raise the championship plaque of the North Platte Invitational.
The host cruised to a 59-31 victory against Jefferson in the title game on Saturday, Jan. 31 at North Platte High School with the reserves replacing the starters early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers won their home tournament for a third consecutive year behind a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Chelsi Sams.
“Chelsi is a great player,” North Platte coach Karl Matt said. “She was all-state last year for a reason. She can score against size. She’s athletic and quick inside. She’s able to beat bigger players inside because she works hard and she’s quick in there.”
A less-experienced player helped fuel the blowout.
North Platte freshman Gracie Roach hit a short jump shot on a putback attempt at the first quarter buzzer to establish a 19-8 lead. She finished with six points off the bench in one of her first games with significant playing time.
After the shot at the end of the quarter, North Platte’s lead ballooned by an extended 7-0 run. Erin Manville (five points) hit a 3-pointer to start the push that lasted until the midway of the second quarter, and the Panthers’ full-court pressure kept the Eagles off of the scoreboard.
Jefferson’s deficit continued to grow, and North Platte’s Courtney Kipping continued her hot shooting with three 3s to account for her nine points — second highest in the title effort.
“We got out and ran again,” Matt said. “It’s been a couple of games since we got out and ran like that. Offensively, we had a good rhythm tonight. Sometimes we struggle against the 2-3 (zone) getting good pace to the game, but we got out and ran and forced the issue.”
North Platte’s last loss in the tournament came in 2012 to Jefferson. Both teams went on to fourth place finishes at state that season — Jefferson in Class 1 and North Platte in Class 2.
“It means a lot, especially it being my senior year that we got the home tournament,” Sams said. “Hopefully, they keep (the streak) going in years to come.”
North Platte girls 59, Orrick 17
The Panthers took a break from KCI Conference play and routed a potential district foe on Monday, Feb. 2 at North Platte High School.
North Platte improved to 18-1 ahead of another non-league clash with DeKalb scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3. The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline, but the Panthers return to KCI play Friday, Feb. 6 at home vs. Lathrop.
Emmie Lee led North Platte with 11 points in the win vs. Orrick. Overall, 11 players factored in the scoring, helping the Panthers to a 35-11 halftime lead and then limiting Orrick to just one point in the fourth quarter of the running clock blowout.
Sams added nine, while Manville and Sarah Johnson score eight apiece. Kipping had seven.