DEARBORN, Mo. — So used to being part of a winning program, North Platte’s players suddenly find themselves in a losing skid not seen in many years.
The Panthers have shown flashes of a stingy defense but have been unable to put together the offense to stay in games durwhile losing seven straight. Mid-Buchanan furthered the struggles in a North Platte Invitational pool opener Monday, Jan. 23 at North Platte High School. The Dragons pulled away for a 56-28 win, inducing the running clock for a good portion of the fourth quarter.
North Platte entered the season having reached the Class 2 playoffs in seven of eight seasons but continue to try and rebuild after losing all five starters and seven seniors from a year ago.
“I would agree they want to succeed. I don’t know if that’s the burden,” said second-year North Platte coach Ryan Davis. “I think there’s quite a few things that we fight from experience to confidence to just being able to execute. There’s no question that they want to win. They definitely want to win.
“We’ve got to keep striving to put it together. Progress isn’t always a straight line.”
Now 3-11 on the season, North Platte has scored more than 40 points in just four of those losses. The Panthers were scheduled to return to action against Mound City on Tuesday, Jan. 24 needing a win to potentially avoid the fifth-place game in the seven-team field of their home tournament.
The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
North Platte seemingly missed its opening vs. No. 2 seed Mid-Buchanan, ranked No. 10 in the most recent Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 2 poll. A flurry of missed shots gave the Panthers an opportunity, and they held a brief 1-0 lead after sophomore Janell Manville split a pair of early free throws.
Recent struggles at the line continued for North Platte, and Mid-Buchanan closed the quarter on a 14-0 run. Jill Rumpf hit a pair of 3s in the opening 8 minutes, including one with 2 seconds left to stretch the lead to 14-1.
“Start of the game, we had a great opportunity to get the lead and get some confidence going, and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Davis said.
Alley Rickel, a junior guard, hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the third quarter for North Platte, and junior guard McKenna Fulton split another pair of free throws to close the Panthers within 14-5. They ended up with just two more field goals in the first half — one from freshman reserve Jordyn Smith and a driving layup for Rickel — while also shooting just 3-for-9 on free throws overall.
North Platte missed the front end of all three one-and-one situations, unable to take advantage of Mid-Buchanan’s foul troubles. The Dragons led 33-10 at halftime.
“We try not to make (a deficit) change what we do,” Davis said. “We try to execute what we do regardless of the score, and unfortunately, we’ve been down 10 or 15 early quite a few times this year. We have to be able to execute early in the game.
“We had just as many missed open layups as free throws.”
Gracie Roach and Fulton scored six early in the second half to cut the lead to less than 20 points and forcing a Mid-Buchanan timeout. The Dragons closed the game on a 19-6 run.
Manville finished with six points, while Rickel ended up with just five — all in the second quarter.
Hamilton 48, North Platte 28
Struggles at the free throw line and slow start were too much for the Panthers in a KCI Conference matchup Friday, Jan. 20 in Hamiton, Mo.
North Platte scored just one basket in the first quarter and went 4 for 17 on free throws in the loss. Defense kept it close after the first quarter but 21 points for Hamilton and a 1-for-7 showing at the line in the second quarter from the Panthers allowed the Hornets to pull away.
North Platte is 0-3 in the KCI.
Lathrop 44, West Platte 32
The Bluejays fell to 1-2 in KCI play after a slow second quarter gave the visitors an opening Friday, Jan. 20 in Weston, Mo.
West Platte led 11-8 after the first quarter but managed just two points in the next 8 minutes. Lathrop pulled away in the third quarter behind 25 points for Annika and Brooke Huitt. Nealie Niemeier led West Platte with 14 points, while Lea Moose hit a pair of 3s.
Scheduled to play in the North Platte Invitational this week, West Platte has a 1-2 mark in KCI play.
Northland Christian 59, North Platte 54
The Panthers couldn’t avoid another loss despite an improved showing from the offense Wednesday, Jan. 18 in Dearborn, Mo.
Down 28-16 at halftime, North Platte scored 38 points in the second half but couldn’t complete the comeback. McKenzie Sams (14) and Roach (10) were the lone double-digit scorers, while Smith (eight) and Fulton (seven) provided solid contributions.
North Platte hit six 3s total — two each for Sams and Roach — but attempted only one free throw. Northland Christian went 20-for-28 at the line.