DEARBORN, Mo. — Any win against West Platte will always be cause for celebration at North Platte.
Even if the process didn’t quite match up to the end result, the Panthers still earned a much-needed victory Friday, Jan. 6 at North Platte High School despite a third quarter hiccup. Completely inexperienced West Platte hung close and even took a brief three-point lead before fading late in a 54-38 loss in the KCI Conference matchup between the two schools this season.
North Platte junior Austin Snook buried five 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 19 points, hitting three of his triples in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers pull away.
“We might’ve started a little slow, but they started pretty strong,” Snook said. “We just turned it up in the second half. It was just a good night, and my teammates played a great game.”
The theatrics of a friendly rivalry played out during the final 8 minutes.
North Platte battled back to lead by four entering the fourth quarter before an onslaught of big plays buried the Bluejays. Snook opened with a 3 from the left wing, and Hunter Oliver followed with a hard drive, converting a layup and drawing a foul.
Oliver converted the free throw for the last of his four points to put North Platte up 42-32 — the Panthers’ first double-digit lead of the night.
Hunter Hendricks, a sophomore guard, added another three-point play, and senior guard Ben French and Snook combined for three more late 3-pointers. Snook’s final 3 from the right wing led to some celebration and maybe some minor good-natured trash talk between the two teams.
“It just went in tonight,” Snook said. “If it doesn’t go in, I don’t take quite as many. My teammates found me open, and it just went in when it went up.”
With a completely remade lineup from a year ago, West Platte couldn’t sustain its early third quarter push and managed just 12 points in the final 10 minutes.
Phillip Pattison, a freshman guard now starting after opening the season on junior varsity, finished with 12 points for West Platte. He even knocked down a 3 in the fourth quarter to give the Bluejays their final sign of life before French came to the other end and hit a 3 of his own.
“Give credit to North Platte. They played a heck of a game,” West Platte coach Dillon Higdon said. “Their boys play hard, and they knocked down shots. But I told the guys in the locker room, ‘We’d love to have a victory, but there’s nothing to hang their heads about.’
“Us as coaches, we were extremely, extremely proud of their energy and how they stuck together as a team — on the court, on the bench. It was awesome.”
Both teams entered on a losing streak and at 0-1 in KCI Conference play
Early on, West Platte managed to answer big baskets with big baskets to keep either team from leading by more than eight until the second half. Snook and Bluejays senior Nick Miller exchanged 3s late in the first quarter, and Pattison converted a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left in the first half to trim the lead to 23-19 at the break.
Hendricks’ running 3-point attempt at the buzzer banked off the rim and out.
Snook had 10 points in the first half but went scoreless in the third quarter. West Platte bolted out on a 7-0 run with Miller hitting a go-ahead 3, and Cole Whalen adding a bucket to put the Bluejays up 26-23.
North Platte then committed a turnover, but the Panthers would fall no further behind.
“I’m stubborn,” North Platte coach Tim Sutton said. “I don’t want to take timeouts there because I want kids to learn how to play through that, but I was one more bucket away from a timeout. We managed to get something going, get back on track, and gosh, the last 14 minutes we shot it pretty well.”
A 3 from French out of the right corner put North Platte back up for good with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, and Corbin Green added a 3 of his own from the same spot to make it 31-27 after three quarters.
“I never really sensed (panic) from our guys,” Higdon said. “From my perspective, I understand how important that is and how critical that four-point lead is, but at the same time, the guys never really skipped a beat.”
North Andrew 68, North Platte 40
The Panthers didn’t have enough offense in the first half and not enough defense in the second half Wednesday, Jan. 4 in Rosendale, Mo.
Ben French hit one 3 in each of the first two quarters to account for almost all of North Platte’s first half production. North Andrew led 29-8 at the break and continued to outscore the Panthers from there.
French, Jesse Martin and Corbin Green all ended up with six points apiece for North Platte.
Maysville 49, North Platte 31
The Wolverines pulled away late, making 15 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter Tuesday, Jan. 3 in Maysville, Mo.
North Platte trailed 28-23 entering the final 8 minutes but attempted only five free throws compared to Maysville’s 17. The Panthers didn’t have a double-digit scorer with Green leading the way at nine points. They led 15-9 after the first quarter but trailed at halftime after managing just one basket from Green in the second quarter.
Plattsburg 71, West Platte 36
The Bluejays lost their rescheduled home opener Wednesday, Jan. 4 in Plattsburg, Mo. Phillip Pattison, a freshman, guard, led West Platte with 13 points.
Hamilton 63, North Platte 34
The Panthers went to the consolation half of the bracket after a loss to the No. 2 seed on Monday, Jan. 9 in Lawson, Mo.
Hendricks led the way for North Platte with eight points, including two 3-pointers. Five of the Panthers’ 13 field goals were 3s, but Hamilton led 32-24 at halftime and then pulled away with a big second half, limiting them to just 10 points.
Lawson 55, West Platte 19
The Bluejays scored just seven points in the first half and were overwhelmed in the first round Monday, Jan. 9.
Cody Glenn hit five 3s and scored 22 points for the host and top seed, leading Lawson to a 33-7 advantage at halftime. No one scored more than three points for the Bluejays.