KEARNEY, Mo. — Heading into the final quarter, Platte County appeared to have a commanding advantage against Smithville in a consolation game Friday night in the Bulldog Classic at Kearney High School.
The future Suburban Conference rival from across Highway 92 made things interesting thanks to a hot start in the fourth and pulled within a possession.
The Pirates found a needed boost over the final 2 ½ minutes to eek out a 54-45 victory against the Warriors.
Platte County closed the game on a 6-0 run to stave off another late rally from Smithville. The Warriors overcame a 14-point deficit on Dec. 12 to force overtime, but the Pirates rallied to win in the extra period, 62-57 at home.
This time, Smithville nearly overcame a 48-31 deficit when the fourth quarter started, pulling within 48-45 after two free throws from Karson Reid with 3 minutes, 1 second left.
“We have done that before,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said of the rally against his squad. “What has to happen with high school kids is they have to experience that and experience that to be in those situations and learn how to keep their poise, how to handle the ball, how to play without fouling and rebound and for whatever reason this team is still learning.”
Winless Smithville (0-10) opened up the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run, getting a deficit below double figures for the first time since being down 18-9 in the second quarter.
Hodge called a timeout following Reid’s 3-pointer with 4:50 left that made it 48-41, but Jake Fisher scored for Smithville and after Platte County missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw attempt, Reid got fouled and hit two free throws to make it 48-45.
“We already played them once and this kind of went the same way,” Hodge said. “We extended our lead and made some turnovers and forced quick shots. With their dribble penetration you can’t foul them. We stopped the clock and they shot free throws and against their full-court press, we made ill-advised turnovers.”
Deiondre Ragsdale scored a layup with 2:30 left and hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1:46 left, making it 51-45. John Watts hit a free throw with 24 seconds left and two free throws from Ethan Esdohr with 14.8 left accounted for the final tally.
The victory snapped what was a five-game losing streak for Platte County (6-7), the last two which came at Kearney High School in a regular season game against Kearney, 58-57, then a loss in overtime to William Chrisman in the first round of the tournament.
Platte County led 16-9 after the first quarter and expanded the lead to 32-16 at the break.
“It is a good win, we needed a win like this,” said senior forward Lucas Stanley, who earned all-tournament team honors. “This win will show us we can pull out a tough game like this.
“The losing streak has been tough, but we can bounce back.”
Stanley finished with 14, one of three Pirates in double figures. Esdore led the way with 17 points, while Ragsdale tallied 12.
Reid finished with 14 for Smithville, nine of which came in the first quarter. Fisher had 12, all coming in the fourth quarter for the Warriors.
The win would’ve sent Platte County into the fifth-place game against Kansas City Northeast, but with the cancellation of Thursday’s game, meant the elimination of the fifth-place and seventh-place games on Saturday.