SAVANNAH, Mo. — Platte County suffered through offensive struggles for most of the first half in its Class 4 District 16 opener, but the Pirates finally found the on switch with 1 minute, 21 seconds remaining in the first half on Monday, March 2 at Savannah High School.
In a fourth matchup of the season with St. Joseph Benton, Platte County scored a 56-42 victory to improve to 3-1 on the season against the Cardinals. That sets up a Thursday, March 5 semifinal with St. Joseph Lafayette, ranked No. 1 in Class 4 according to the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association and the 2014 state runner-up.
Platte County has now won three straight — the first streak of multiple victories this season for a senior-laden roster.
“The kids are starting to click and gel a little bit more,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “We’ve gone through a season where it seems like up and down throughout we’ve had different people sick or hurt or so forth. I think right now we have our full squad back, and we have guys clicking and playing well. We’re healthy now, and it’s a good to be healthy.”
Against Benton, Platte County senior Sam Zimmerman started what became a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer from the wing — the first of the five for the Pirates overall — to give the Pirates a lead in the first quarter they never relinquished. The senior finished with 17 points, including all five of the Pirates’ points in the first quarter.
Jered Thomas finished the run when he rattled in another 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Pirates a 19-10 lead at the break.
“My main message at halftime was we were playing well,” Hodge said. “I don’t think they truly believed me, but I meant it. They played well defensively, obviously, holding them to 10 points, but even on the offensive end, they moved the ball well and got the right guys the right places where we want them to hit shots. They just weren’t hitting. I told them, ‘You’re playing great basketball. We’ll hit shots in the second half.’ That’s when the kids bought in and believed.”
Platte County weathered Benton’s full-court pressure through the third quarter with a 30-22 lead. The Pirates ran away with it in the fourth quarter, scoring 26 points. Senior guard Topher Kilkenny scored five of his nine, Jake Eastman six of his eight and Josh Eastman fifteen points of his game-high 17 in the final 8 minutes.
Despite some recent struggles at the foul line, Platte County made 10 of 14 late against Benton to avoid any dramatics.
“The fourth quarter, the seniors really showed some poise,” Jake Eastman said. “We knocked down shots and some free throws.”
The win boosts Platte County into the third matchup of the season with Lafayette, which earned a first-round bye as the top seed. Tipoff is slated for 5:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to a 7 p.m. championship game on Friday, March 6 against either Kearney or Smithville.
Lafayette has won five times against Platte County in the past three years, although a few of the matchups have been close.
“It’s going to be tough,” Hodge said. “They’re going to put a lot of pressure on us. We know that. We’ll just have to rely on our ball handlers and take care of the ball — hopefully, move the ball like we did tonight. Hopefully we can stay competitive.”
Platte County 59, Winnetonka 51
The Pirates closed out the regular season with back-to-back Suburban Conference Blue Division wins, including this wire-to-wire victory on Friday, Feb. 27 in their finale.
Zimmerman poured in a game-high 26 points, including the first seven for Platte County in the first quarter to prompt a Winnetonka timeout with the Griffins down 7-0. The Pirates extended the lead to 13-2 after the first quarter but wouldn’t lead by double digits again until the second half.
Josh Eastman (11 points) hit a deep two-point jumper from the right corner to put the Pirates up 40-28 with 6:30 to play.
Platte County made just 18-of-33 free throws overall, including 11 of 22 in the fourth quarter, to extend out the little drama remaining. Winnetonka’s Omar Wright (team-high 17 points) hit a 3 to close the Griffins within 48-42 with 2:30 to play but could come no closer.
Entering districts, Platte County won back-to-back games for the first time this season and wound up 4-6 in Blue Division play, tied with Grandview for fourth.
Platte County 81, Raytown South 75, OT
The Pirates avoided defeat at the end of regulation on Tuesday, Feb. 24, and a pair of 3-pointers from Topher Kilkenny in overtime buoyed them to a season sweep of Raytown South, which finished second in the Blue Division.
Down 43-34 at halftime, Raytown South fought back in the second half and held possession with the score tied at 69 in the closing seconds. The Cardinals missed an attempt at a game-winner but retained possession when Platte County knocked the ball out of bounds under their basket.
Zimmerman blocked the lob attempt on the ensuing inbounds pass to force overtime.
Kilkenny hit both of his 3s in overtime and finished with 17 points, just behind Zimmerman’s team-high 20. Kodee Martin (10 points) and Josh Eastman (seven) iced the win with late free throws. Jake Eastman finished with 12 points and hit two 3s, matching him with Kilkenny and Zimmerman in that column.
Platte County also beat Raytown South on Feb. 6 but allowed a big comeback four days later in a loss to Winnetonka. Zimmerman sprained his ankle early in that game and missed the next two contests, as well — all part of a four-game losing skid that ended with the second win against Raytown South.