A crew of mostly unknown commodities combined to find success a year ago.
Deiondre Ragsdale and Kobe Cummings — both now senior guards — displayed the ability to score in bunches for Platte County, helping fuel a breakout season. The Pirates went from four wins in 2015-16 to 10-17 a year ago.
Platte County lost a pair of starters but returns four key pieces plus a cast of contributors, hoping to build on last year’s successes.
“I think they still don’t know,” said Ragsdale, who scored a team-best 16.6 points per game and earned first team All-Suburban Conference Blue Division honors in his first season at the varsity level. “We’ve got a lot of guys upcoming. They’ll still surprise people this year. I think we will have an even better record.”
Platte County never put together a lengthy run, unable to win more than two in a row at any point. The Pirates went 2-8 in Blue Division play and just missed on a few potential upsets, most notably when St. Joseph Lafayette completed a wild comeback in a regular season matchup.
Cummings and Ragsdale increased their scoring as the season continued, and Platte County reached the Class 4 District 15 championship, a valuable experience in another loss to nemesis and rival Kearney.
“I think it boosted our confidence a little bit,” Ragsdale said. “With that, we can get even farther and win a district championship.”
Platte County’s best stretch came with an upset of Class 5 playoff qualifier North Kansas City in the semifinals of Kearney’s Bulldog Classic. That started a stretch of five wins in a span of nine games.
John Watts — a 6-foot-4 forward — developed into a post presence, scoring 8.56 points per game in his junior season. He returns along with senior 6-foot-5 bruising forward Lucas Stanley, who showed flashes of scoring potential early as a junior before being ineligible for the second half of the season.
Platte County must replace senior guards Tanner Newberry and DeAndre Rollins, along with reserve forward Austin Gammill.
Rick Hodge, the Pirates’ veteran coach, expects senior guard JP Post to play a more important role, while junior guard Ethan Esdohr to contribute more after spot work off the bench last year. In addition, senior guards Nathen Mair and Lakol Miryal and senior forward Uzael Abraham could be in line for more work on an older but still somewhat experienced roster.
Most of Platte County’s struggles came in the rigourous Blue Division schedule. The Pirates’ only wins came in a sweep of Winnetonka with top-tier teams forcing them into offensive shootouts, losing two each to Grandview, Raytown South, Belton and Kearney.
“Once we work on our defense and improve that, we will definitely be able to win more games,” Ragsdale said. “We didn’t know how to carry over into the next game off of a win (last year) or got too confident if we got a big win. We’ve got to stay humble and keep playing together.”