MAYSVILLE, Mo. — Erin Manville ended up taking four free throws — the first two with 7 seconds left in regulation and two more with 6 seconds to go — but she only needed the first one.
In a bizarre finish to the Class 2 District 16 championship game, the North Platte senior made the first of two for a technical foul on South Harrison for taking an extra timeout then missed a pair after being fouled on the resulting possession. The Panthers’ held to a precarious one-point lead as the final seconds ticked away.
South Harrison’s desperation 3-point try at the buzzer might not have counted anyway, but freshman Katey Wilhelm’s shot came up all air, preserving a 53-52 win for North Platte, which advances to the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years. Manville’s free throw came after the Panthers lost a lead in the fourth quarter three times and helped make a hero out of an attentive team manager who noticed the mistake that led to the technical foul.
“That was stressful, very stressful. I knew I had to make one, but one out of four?” said Manville, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds (nine offensive) despite playing most of the fourth quarter with four fouls. “I’m still pretty excited. This is so exciting.”
The excitement slowly built in the final minutes before giving away to a little chaos.
South Harrison (24-4) closed within 52-51 with 11 seconds to play, and after a timeout, the Bulldogs stole a pass under the basket. Hunter Purdun drew a foul with 7 seconds to play and went to the line with a chance to tie the score or take the lead.
After Purdun made the first to the score at 52-52, South Harrison coach Bill Pottorff called a timeout.
North Platte team manager Gabby Kidwell, a junior, told Panthers coach Ryan Davis near the end of the stoppage that she believed the Bulldogs were out of timeouts. He went to the table, and officials conferred before indicating that Pottorff took a sixth timeout, one more than allotted resulting in a technical foul call.
Livid at the turn of events, Pottorff initially indicated a desire to protest the game before backing off with all three scorebooks — his, North Platte’s and the official one at the table — all showed him out of timeouts.
After the discussion, Purdun went back to the line with an empty lane and missed her second shot. Manville then went to the line at the other end and made the first to break the tie, and despite the next three misses, North Platte made the last lead stand up.
Purdun took the rebound and drove the court before having the ball knocked away and out of bounds with 1 second left. Wilhelm’s shot went up from the left corner as the horn sounded but didn’t come close, allowing North Platte’s players and coaches to unleash a relieving celebration.
“I told them in the locker room: It takes everybody,” said Davis, a first-year head coach at North Platte. “It takes the managers, the bookkeeper. (Kidwell) works at Platte City QuikTrip. I don’t want to make her some kind of superstar to where she’s signing autographs tomorrow at work, but she cares about the team. She’s friends with the girls, and she got us one point.”
North Platte advances to play Santa Fe (25-2), a 62-40 winner over Wellington-Napoleon in Friday’s District 15 title game.
For seven seniors, this marks a return to tradition after a loss to Hamilton kept the Panthers out of the playoffs last year for the first time. Manville, Brittney Gerling, Emmie Lee and Maddie Lee have contributed for four years and now have one final shot at a playoff run, starting Wednesday, March 2 at Staley High School in a sectional matchup with the Chiefs.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said Gerling, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to play with. I’m excited we get to keep going. We’re definitely going to take any of our last moments together. We’re going to put in our all and go as far as we can go.”
The final moments almost occurred in the closing minutes against South Harrison.
North Platte (24-4) jumped to an early lead, and Manville scored eight in the first quarter. Kaycee Hodgson’s pair of free throws early with 5:55 left in the first half put the Panthers up 20-9 — their first double-digit lead.
With Manville’s on-ball pressure and Gerling’s dirty work on the inside against Purdun and 6-foot-2 Ciara Jennings, South Harrison struggled to get clean looks when turnovers didn’t end possessions early. Maddie Lee hit her second 3, and Gerling added a putback for a late 5-0 run to make it 29-19 at halftime, a big spurt with Manville on the bench with two fouls.
The two baskets took on more meaning when South Harrison started to turn the tide right out of halftime.
Four unanswered points trimmed the Bulldogs’ deficit to six, and another 4-0 run answered a three-point play from Manville. Neither team led by more than six the rest of the way.
Manville picked up her fourth foul with 7:17 left in regulation, and Emmie Lee took a hard fall moments later, going to the bench for the remainder while keeping an ice pack on her neck. South Harrison trailed by one when Emmie Lee exited and took its first lead moments later to set up the frenetic finish.
North Platte sophomore Gracie Roach hit a 3 to cap a quick 5-0 run to put North Platte up four with 5:04 left.
South Harrison scored the next seven, holding the Panthers without a point for nearly 4 minutes.
Gerling’s final basket made it 47-46, and after Davis took a timeout, Manville stole the inbounds pass to set up a basket — Hodgson’s putback on the third shot of the possession. The Panthers totaled 23 offensive rebounds
South Harrison drew a quick foul, but Wilhelm missed both.
After two Manville free throws pushed the lead back to three with 26 seconds to go, North Platte ended up having to hold on despite Roach, freshman Janell Manville, sophomore Alley Rickel and seniors Holly Sanders and Kailey Pike playing increased minutes down the stretch. The Panthers were prepared for the moment, having played most of the first month with Manville still mending from her second torn ACL, even if the final result required a rarely seen call to help provide the final opportunity.
“You just have to give yourself a chance at the end, even if it’s something like that that’s crazy,” Davis said. “They played without Erin the first six games, and our young kids had to step up during those six games. But also, we’ve played 10 or 11 girls throughout the whole year.
“They’re young and maybe they’re not the starting five, but they’ve been in big games as well. We’ve counted on them throughout the year, and they did enough.”
North Platte 46, Gallatin 35
Maddie Lee’s three 3-pointers helped the Panthers overcome an early deficit in a semifinal win Wednesday, Feb. 24 in Maysville, Mo.
Gallatin led 11-9 after the first quarter but scored in single digits in each of the final three quarters. Maddie Lee finished with a team-high 13 points, one of only five scorers for the Panthers. Emmie Lee added nine, while Hodgson, Gerling and Manville all ended up with eight.
North Platte shot just 10-for-21 on free throws.