KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Platte County went through a difficult rebuilding season but put together a highlight week for six seniors in the final week of the regular season.
After handing Raytown South its only loss in Suburban Conference Blue Division play, the Pirates finished off a regular season sweep of Winnetonka with a 56-51 win Friday, Feb. 26 at Winnetonka High School. They won back-to-back games for the first and only time this season ahead of a Class 4 District 16 first-round loss that ended the season.
Platte County went 5-20 overall but wound up 3-7 in conference play.
“I give the kids a whole lot of credit,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “They could have easily packed it in. They didn’t. They just come out and play every night. They enjoy playing the game. They enjoy playing with each other. They don’t worry about all the other stuff; they just come out and play.”
Platte County opened the season with one win in the Savannah Tournament but didn’t win again until mid-January in the seventh place game of Kearney’s Bulldog Classic.
Hodge stressed player development throughout the season, and senior Nick Kunels and junior Grant Carver eventually formed a solid frontcourt tandem. The addition of senior Tyler Clemens and junior Tanner Newberry during the regular season provided more options, and sophomore Kobe Cummings debuted as a solid bench player.
Platte County advanced to the district title game in 2015 after a semifinal upset of No. 1-ranked St. Joseph Lafayette, but after losing the majority of its experience to graduation, the Pirates struggled to find an identity until late in the season.
“It’s nice just for the couple of wins sake,” Hodge said. “We as a coaching staff thought that throughout the season we had some pieces.”
The pieces came together for a second time in a little more than two weeks vs. Winnetonka.
After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, Platte County did end up trailing 26-25 at halftime in the rematch with the Griffins, who took advantage of turnovers to surge in front. Clemens’ putback layup at the buzzer helped change the momentum, cutting the deficit to one at the break.
“Two timeouts and a halftime had to be used to get the message across to go back to what was working for us in the first quarter,” Hodge said.
Carver scored all 14 points for Platte County in the third quarter, including the first six to turn the deficit into a five-point lead. The Pirates didn’t trail again, although Winnetonka closed within 39-37 entering the fourth quarter with Carver sitting the final 2 minutes to catch a break.
“I didn’t realize it until I came over to the bench and the JV kids said, ‘You have 14 this quarter’,” said Carver, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “I didn’t believe them. I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just knew I needed to help the team win. I just did what I could. It just kind of happened.”
Winnetonka continued to hang close and came within 53-51 with 24 seconds to play in regulation. Newberry (11 points) hit both free throws on the following possession, and Kodee Martin — a senior with the most playing time experience from last season — iced the game with another from the line with 5.1 seconds to play.
Kunels finished with 12 points, and Jerod Thomas, along with Martin a contributor last season, ended up with four points.
Platte County 60, Raytown South 59
In the final home game for five seniors, the Pirates saw a sizeable lead evaporate and then held on for a win Tuesday, Feb. 23 at Platte County High School.
Platte County never trailed, led by as many as 10 in the second half and took a 40-33 advantage into the fourth quarter when the action became frantic. Hezekiah Goodwin hit a pair of deep 3-pointers in the final minute to close the Cardinals within one on his way to a game-high 23 points.
Martin, one of five seniors to start for Platte County, hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to put the Pirates up 60-57. Raytown South ended up with multiple looks at a potential tying 3 but couldn’t convert, eventually drawing a foul on the rebound of the final miss.
Raytown South hit the first and then accidentally banked in the second, allowing Platte County to run out the final 1.8 seconds for the win. The Cardinals entered unbeaten in Suburban Conference Blue Division play.
Cummings finished with a team-high 15 points for Platte County, Carver added 12 and Newberry chipped in 11. Carver, Newberry, Cummings, Kunels and Thomas hit a 3-pointer apiece.
Kearney 62, Platte County 44
The Bulldogs pulled away in the second quarter and ended the Pirates’ season in a Class 4 District 16 first round matchup Monday, Feb. 29 at Smithville High School in Smithville, Mo.
Down 40-17 at halftime, Platte County couldn’t recover with Cummings and Carver scoring 11 apiece. The Pirates lost all three meetings with the Bulldogs this season.
The first round matchup was a rematch of last year’s district final between the two teams.