EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Platte County played fast and loose, never enduring a tense moment on the way to ending a lengthy streak of postseason disappointment.
In a Class 4 District 15 opener Monday, Feb. 27, the Pirates scored the first 13 points and rolled to a 67-28 victory over host Excelsior Springs. The win marked the first in postseason play since Platte County played for the District 16 championship in 2011.
A rotating lineup down the stretch has now won three straight, earning Platte County (14-11) a shot at No. 1 seed St. Pius X in a semifinal later in the week.
“I thought it was one of the best starts we’ve had all year, regardless of the opponent,” Platte County coach Chris Stubbs said. “For the most part, we just wanted to pressure the ball, try to create some turnovers and create some easy baskets. (Six years) since we’ve won a district game, so we were very, very pleased. That was one of the girls’ goals — get a district win and get to the semifinals.”
With just two seniors left on the roster, Platte County again turned to its impressive sophomore class to lead the way against overmatched Excelsior Springs (1-22).
Hannah Valentine, a sophomore guard, converted a three-point play on the Pirates’ first possession of the fourth quarter — coming after Excelsior Springs threw away an inbounds pass to start the frame. The free throw extended the lead to 44-23, and the 30-point running clock stayed in effect for the remainder of the game.
Valentine and senior forward Lizzy Peterson scored five apiece in the fourth quarter for Platte County, which received scoring from nine of the 11 players suited up.
“I think we really hustled out there tonight. Even though we had our ups and downs, we came together as a team,” said Valentine, who finished with nine points.
Jaycie Stubbs, a sophomore guard, led Platte County with 12 points — all in the first half. She helped the Pirates bolt to a 13-0 lead after just 2 minutes, 59 seconds — forcing Excelsior Springs into its first timeout.
Pressure defense led to easy scoring opportunities, and Platte County led 22-4 after the first quarter. Pirates sophomore Janessa Barmann matched Valentine with nine points, while junior forward Lauren Walker — a late season addition to the starting lineup — had eight.
Meghan Amos and Stephanie Carroll, two more sophomores off the bench, scored seven apiece for developing Platte County, which has its longest win streak of the season.
The run comes despite the loss of two starters during the season — junior Rockey Chambers and senior Ava White, who suffered a recent knee injury and is out for the season. Valentine, Barmann, Walker and sophomore Taylor Farr (six points) all started against Excelsior Springs, while seniors Peterson and Amy Lett came off the bench.
“We have so many young people out there who can bring something to the team,” Valentine said. “Even if you don’t start one game, you know when you come off the bench you are going to give it your best and go all out.”
Jaycie Stubbs’ 3-pointer from the right corner stretched Platte County’s lead to 37-10 with just under a minute left in the first half. The Pirates were up 37-15 at the break, and their lead didn’t hit 30 until Valentine’s bucket plus the free throw early in the fourth quarter.
Chris Stubbs steadily rotated through players with the result never in doubt, happy to end a frustrating streak.
Platte County plays St. Pius X (18-3) at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 at Excelsior Springs High School with the winner advancing to Friday’s title game. The Pirates enter with wins in four of their last five games with little to lose against the Warriors, who went to the playoffs each of the past two seasons in Class 3.
“I don’t think I’d want to play us right now,” Chris Stubbs said. “We are young — inexperienced — but in some cases, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. These girls are playing really loose right now.”