EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — The opening moments portended Platte County’s fate.
Off the opening tap, St. Pius X junior guard Antoinette Mussorici needed just 3 seconds to toss in her first shot. The Pirates ended up enduring a lengthy drought to open the game and then suffered through a crippling scoreless period in the second quarter of a 56-21 loss in a Class 4 District 15 semifinal on Thursday, March 2 at Excelsior Springs High School.
Platte County’s season came to a sudden halt at 14-12 — never able to truly challenge top-seeded St. Pius X, a playoff qualifier each of the past two seasons in Class 3.
“The girls did what we asked them to in the first quarter, and Pius is a good team,” Platte County coach Chris Stubbs said. “I think we let our emotions get to us.”
Mussorici scored nine of her 15 points in the first quarter, while St. Pius X seniors Abigail Hipp and Natalie Dinzer combined for 31 more.
Especially early, Platte County’s inability to contain the speedy junior point guard led to a big deficit. Stubbs likely had the player that would have tried to guard Mussorici on the bench next to him.
Out of uniform and on crutches, Pirates senior guard Ava White recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. That left Stubbs with only seniors Amy Lett and Liz Peterson in uniform down the stretch and a revolving lineup that looked much different than the one used at the start of the season.
“You go to war with who you have,” Stubbs said. “It’s not just (White’s) defensive ability. It’s the emotion she brings. It’s that energy and enthusiasm she has. I’m not sure how much of a difference she would’ve made, but I know she would have made a difference.”
The senior trio played a part in back-to-back winning seasons, helping revive a previously downtrodden program. Behind a talented group of sophomores, Platte County won four of five coming into the district semifinal, including an opening round blowout of host Excelsior Springs for the Pirates’ first postseason win since 2011.
“This was the first time these sophomores and these seniors have been in a big game like this so if nothing else it was a great life experience,” Stubbs said. “That doesn’t take away from the 14 wins or the progress this team has made.”
Stubbs started four sophomores and a junior in the district semifinal, but Platte County responded with a slow start. Peterson, coming off the bench, hit a reverse layup with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first quarter for the Pirates’ first field goal and first points.
St. Pius X opened with 13 straight points before Peterson’s basket and although the senior forward added a jumper later in the frame, the Warriors were up 18-4 after the first quarter.
“I thought (Peterson) and (Lett) both down the stretch have done a great job being leaders — on and off the court,” Stubbs said.
Platte County’s scoreless stretch in the second quarter was too much.
Despite the offense for St. Pius X slowing, the Pirates couldn’t take advantage. Lauren Walker, a junior forward, scored with 3:09 left in the first half to close the gap to 29-6, but the Warriors went into halftime up 31-6 and in complete control.
Platte County sophomore guard Taylor Farr scored the first five points of the second half on the Pirates’ first two possessions, including a right wing 3-pointer, to provide a brief spark. St. Pius X allowed as many points in the first 2 minutes of the third quarter as it did during the first two quarters combined.
Jaycie Stubbs and Stephanie Carroll — both sophomore guards — also hit 3s in the third quarter for Platte County, which exchanged baskets with St. Pius X for a while. Hipp, a 5-foot-11 senior headed to Missouri State, and Denzer combined for 15 of the Warriors’ 19 points in the third quarter, allowing them to have a 32-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
With the result not in doubt, Chris Stubbs used the fourth quarter to make sure all players on the roster, especially those coming back next year, received a chance to see the floor in the district final. He also let Peterson and Lett play out the final minutes of their career, giving a nod to the present while acknowledging that the future looks bright.
“I knew we’d have to trade with them and probably couldn’t stop them,” he said. “I was hoping we could get it close and maybe they’d get tight. That was over the first 5, 6 minutes (of the game). It is what it is, and they’re a good basketball team.”