DEARBORN, Mo. — The shots stopped falling, two key seniors fouled out and North Platte couldn’t make the stops needed.
Northland Christian’s tall front line dominated during a 58-35 runaway win Monday, Dec. 11 at North Platte High School. The Trailblazers’ zone defense frustrated North Platte’s offense into missed 3-pointers early before a switch to box-and-one helped limit junior forward to Grace Rice to just seven points.
Elizabeth and Virginia Kruse combined for 37 points, leading Northland Christian’s offense with easy looks inside and second-chance opportunities through a significant height advantage in the front court.
“We went in the locker room, we said, ‘You can look at this one of two ways,’” North Platte coach Ryan Davis said. “You can look at it, one, we didn’t make any shots, and that’s true. But if that’s the only thing you chalk it up to, I don’t know if you’re going to learn the lesson either.
“You’re going to have games where you don’t make shots, but we also gave up 58 points. It’s hard to win high school basketball games when you give up 58 points.”
North Platte led twice early with senior Gracie Roach scoring the Panthers’ first five points. Janell Manville and Roach each hit an early 3, but they had just three 3s made at halftime as Northland Christian slowly pulled away.
Rice scored five of her seven points on back-to-back possessions with deep jumpers from the left corner in the second quarter. With the lead cut to 24-20, Northland Christian closed the half on a quick 6-2 run in the final 1 minute, 18 seconds.
Elizabeth Kruse had 15 of her 22 in the first half, and North Platte scored just four points in the third quarter.
“I honestly thought the girls executed the game plan on defense pretty well,” Davis said. “It took us to the second half to realize it’s not going to be good enough to box her out. You have to box her out, drive her out, two girls, and you’ve got to gang rebound. By then, the shots definitely weren’t falling once we were down.”
Rice didn’t score in the second half, and North Platte’s shooting woes continued.
Alley Rickel and Roach both fouled out early in the fourth quarter, while Northland Christian’s lead ballooned to as much as 22 points. North Platte senior guard McKenna Fulton (team-high eight points) and freshman reserve Ryann Smith hit 3s on back-to-back possessions to make it 49-33, but the Trailblazers kept the starters in the whole way against the undermanned Panthers.
“You just want to keep playing,” Davis said. “We got some younger girls in there to play. You don’t want to give in, just throw in the towel. We only get so many of these games a year. We’re still a team who is trying to build and get better.”
North Platte dropped a third straight, including back-to-back losses to finish out the KCI Conference Tournament, and stood at 2-4 entering a Tuesday, Dec. 12 home game with Midway (result not available). The busy stretch was scheduled to continue Friday, Dec. 15 in the KCI opener at Plattsburg — a rematch of the Panthers’ first round league tournament upset two weeks earlier.
West Platte 32, KC Lutheran 26
The Bluejays earned their first win of the season, riding an early run to a big lead Monday, Dec. 11 in Kansas City, Mo.
Sydney Sweden scored a team-high nine, while Lea Moose (seven), Lexie Smither (six) and Karen Knox and Rachel Heili (five) were right behind in a balanced scoring sheet. West Platte opened on a 10-2 run and led the entire way.
Sweden scored four in the third quarter.
West Platte opened 0-4, including an 0-2 showing in the KCI tournament, before grabbing the first win. The Bluejays host Hogan Prep on Thursday, Dec. 14 in Weston, Mo. before opening league play Friday, Dec. 15 at Lawson.
KCI CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Hamilton 57, North Platte 48
The Panthers ended up fourth after a second straight loss in the KCI bracket.
Despite strong scoring early, North Platte faded against Hamilton in the third-place game Thursday, Dec. 7 in Plattsburg, Mo. The Panthers were the No. 6 seed and scored an upset in the opening round over No. 3 Plattsburg before losing in overtime to second-seeded East Buchanan and then to No. 4 seed Hamilton.
North Platte went 0-2 and did not place in 2016.
Roach (11 points) and Fulton and Manville (nine points each) provided balanced scoring for North Platte, but the trio combined for just 10 points in the second half. McKenzie Sams also hit a pair of 3-pointers for the Panthers.
East Buchanan 55, North Platte 52, OT
The Panthers nearly sprung a second straight upset in a bid to reach the title game.
Coming off of a win over No. 3 seed Plattsburg, North Platte forced overtime on Rice’s putback late in regulation in the semifinal played Tuesday, Dec. 5 in Plattsburg, Mo. Rickel hit a 3 to open the scoring in overtime, but Manville and Roach fouled out before East Buchanan regained its scoring touch.
The No. 2 seed built a 25-5 lead midway through the second quarter and held the advantage until an 8-0 run for North Platte made it 38-38 to start the fourth. The teams went into overtime tied at 44-44.
Rice scored a team-high 15, while Rickel added 12 in the loss for North Platte.