EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — True to earned reputation, Platte County fought back and created some uncertainty. The Pirates just didn’t have quite enough to complete an unlikely comeback in the Class 4 District 15 championship game.
Kearney pulled away late for a 57-43 victory Saturday, March 4 at Excelsior Springs High School — the Bulldogs’ fourth double-digit win over Platte County this season.
Down 14 at halftime after a barrage of made 3-pointers, Platte County twice cut the deficit to six points in the second half but never produced the lengthy run needed to spring the upset. The second-seeded Pirates were back in the district title game for the second time in three seasons, having lost the 2015 District 16 title game to Kearney, as well.
“Same as every game this year,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “They play hard and they compete. Kearney got some separation from us in the second quarter. They hit some shots, and we didn’t and we were in an uphill climb in the second half.”
Kearney hit eight 3-pointers in the first half and nine total. The Bulldogs did most of their damage behind the arc or with free throws, shooting 15-for-21 at the line as fouls piled up against the Pirates in both halves.
Platte County opened the second half on an 8-0 run after senior guard Tanner Newberry converted a three-point play with a driving layup plus the free throw. The Pirates held Kearney scoreless for the first 4-plus minutes of the third quarter, but the Bulldogs were back up nine entering the fourth after sophomore Gaven Frizzell hit their ninth and final 3.
In the fourth quarter, Kearney hit five free throws late with Platte County’s offense drying up after Newberry hit his second 3 and junior JP Post hit two free throws to cut the lead back to 45-39 with 5:06 to play. The Pirates endured another offensive lull and ultimately a fourth disappointing loss to a rival.
“We really had a lot of confidence coming into this one,” said Newberry, who finished with a team-high 11 points. “Knowing they beat us three times this season, we wanted our moment. We wanted our time. We just fell short.”
Kearney hit four 3-pointers in each of the first two quarters and also converted two of them into four-point plays.
Platte County junior guard Deiondre Ragsdale scored all eight of his points in a back-and-forth first quarter, but the Bulldogs provided the final salvo with Connor Ritz’s four-point play to go up 14-11. The Pirates went into the second quarter down 17-13 but tied it up with the next four points, including a pair of free throws for senior guard DeAndre Rollins.
John Watts, a junior forward, then hit a 3-pointer to put Platte County up for the final time at 20-19.
Kearney closed the quarter on a 16-1 run that included senior guard Dylan Ritz’s four-point play and all three of senior guard Evan Waddell’s 3s. Platte County actually took possession with 6.1 seconds on clock down 32-21 with a chance to draw closer.
Instead, a traveling violation returned possession to Kearney, and the Bulldogs used the remaining 1.7 seconds to set up Waddell for a 3-point try off of a baseline inbounds play near half court. Waddell flew up from the right wing for a shot over Rollins, burying it at the buzzer for a 35-21 advantage.
Platte County refused to let that be the definitive end, even with three previous losses to Kearney this season.
“We all have heart,” Rollins said. “We give it all we’ve got no matter what’s in front of us. We just give it all we’ve got.”
The gut-punch 3 before the half still proved to be too much to overcome.
Despite multiple possessions while down six, Platte County didn’t come any closer. The Pirates finished a resurgent season at 10-17 — a record not necessarily indicative of the development shown after returning just two starters from a year ago.
Platte County loses three seniors — starters Rollins and Newberry and reserve forward Austin Gammill. The Pirates played without Newberry for a month due to illness and also endured the loss of another starter due to academics after the New Year.
Despite the setbacks, Platte County stayed competitive in most games — often showing a resilient side thanks to the scoring of Ragsdale and fellow junior guard Kobe Cummings, limited to just seven points against Kearney. Watts also showed flashes of his potential inside, and with those three plus Post probable to return next year, the Pirates have reason for optimism.
The three seniors led a bounceback from a downtrodden 2015-16 to return Platte County to the district title game for the second time in three years — both ending with losses to Kearney.
“I love the kids that are on this team,” Hodge said. “It’s satisfying, but we’re going to miss these seniors. I’m not talking about what a stat sheet says. I’m talking these are three high-character kids that do a great job leading by example. And we’re going to miss their composure and leadership.”
Platte County 49, Kansas City Northeast 46
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Watts hit a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds left in a semifinal Friday, March 3 at Excelsior Springs High School, securing the Pirates’ slim victory.
“I knew at the end of the game if I missed those free-throws we might lose this game,” said Watts, who finished with 16 points. “But I have a lot of confidence in my free-throw shooting, and I made the shot and we won the game.”
Ragsdale and Watts scored 16 points apiece in a tight matchup between the districts Nos. 2 and 3 seeds.
Platte County hit three early 3-pointers to take a lead out of the first quarter, and the Pirates were up six at the break. Northeast tied the score at 32-32 with 3:50 left in the third quarter, but Hodge trusted his players to finish well.
After a 10-day layoff, Platte County held on late to extend its season for one more night.
“It’s been like that a lot through this season,” Hodge said. “Our seniors give us poise and leadership in a lot of ways, the juniors give us scoring and that’s just the way it has been lately.”