North Platte couldn’t hold on to leads toward the end of regulation and early in overtime in the Class 2 District 16 championship game. In their fourth meeting of the season, Hamilton defeated the Panthers for the second time — this one a 63-61 triumph Friday, Feb. 27 at Albany High School in Albany, Mo. The Hornets were scoreless for the first three minutes of the overtime session and trailed 58-53 with 1:10 to play before tallying eight late to stage a comeback.
North Platte’s streak of consecutive playoff appearances ended at six. The Panthers finished 26-2 with both losses to their current KCI Conference rival and longtime nemesis. The last time North Platte missed the playoffs came in the 2008 season when Hamilton won a Class 2 District 15 championship matchup between the two on the way to a state title.
Entering on a 14-game win streak that included a win against Hamilton to win the KCI title, North Platte led 28-18 at halftime, and the advantage sat a 43-34 early in the fourth quarter. Chelsi Sams led the way with 22 points, but fouls piled up against the Panthers in the second half and overtime.
Hamilton overcame a 51-50 deficit with 11.3 seconds to play in regulation, tying it at 53 and sending the second of four matchups this season into overtime.
Eventually, Courtney Kipping, Baylie Wilson and Brittney Gerling all fouled out for North Platte, and Hamilton made 22 of 36 free throws.
Sams, Kipping, Wilson and Sara Johnson (11 points) along with Scout Montgomery were the seniors who had been a part of three straight runs to the Class 2 playoffs. With very little lost from last year, North Platte hoped to better the quarterfinal finish from 2014 and go back to the state semifinals for the third time in five years (2011 and 2012).
North Platte burst into the title game with a pair of blowouts earlier in the week.
In a semifinal matchup with Polo on Wednesday, Feb. 25, North Platte scored 31 points in the first quarter on the way to an 87-35 win, eclipsing the previous high for points scored in a game this season (76 vs. Carrollton on Jan. 13). Thirteen different players contributed points with North Platte tallying another 26 in the third quarter to force a running clock for the remainder of the matchup.
Sams led the way with 15 points, while Erin Manville (15), Kipping (13) and Wilson (10) also finished in double figures.