West Platte came up with a monumental victory in the opening round of the KCI Conference Tournament.
In a featured matchup with their biggest rival, the Bluejays survived overtime for a 58-55 victory Saturday, Dec. 3 in Gower, Mo. — the first win against North Platte in probably at least two decades. The Panthers fell behind early but came back to force the extra period where Nealie Niemeier hit a pair of 3-pointers on West Platte’s first two possessions to create separation.
Niemeier finished with a game-high 18 points, including four of West Platte’s six 3-pointers.
North Platte junior guard Alley Rickel (13 points) hit a 17-foot jumper with 6 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. She scored nine of her 13 in the second half and overtime, while junior guard McKenna Fulton led the comeback with 10 of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Fulton, who grabbed six offensive rebounds, also hit four free throws in overtime, but missed chances at the line doomed North Platte.
West Platte led 54-53, but guard Hannah McGivern fouled out, giving North Platte an opening. The Panthers twice went to the line down one point but missed four straight free throws before Alexa Raney sealed the win for the Bluejays with a layup.
Raney (15 points) and McGivern (14 points) joined Niemeier in double-figures for scoring.
Niemeier scored 10 points in the first quarter with her two other 3-pointers. West Platte led 23-21 at halftime before a mostly even second half led to the overtime.
West Platte advanced to meet top-seeded defending champion Mid-Buchanan in a semifinal scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 6. The result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
Last year, West Platte went 0-3 against North Platte but closed the gap in the rivalry. The Bluejays won a KCI tournament consolation game last season for their first victory in the event since 2006. This marks their first trip to the semifinals in even longer.
Hamilton 64, North Platte 43
The Panthers were ousted from the tournament with a consolation loss to the tournament’s No. 8 seed on Monday, Dec. 5 at East Buchanan High School in Gower, Mo.
Hamilton enjoyed a healthy advantage in free throw attempts and made 17 of 24 from the line.
The Hornets had three players in double figures and took a big lead from the outset. Rickel scored 16 points and hit four 3-pointers, while Grace Rice added eight in the loss for the Panthers, who will carry a 2-2 record into a Tuesday, Dec. 13 home matchup with Orrick.
Last season, North Platte went 21-5 while reaching the Class 2 playoffs.
West Platte 56, North Andrew 55, OT
WESTON, Mo. — The Bluejays were forced into overtime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation Thursday, Dec. 1 before rallying to hold on for a nonconference win at West Platte High School.
West Platte trailed 47-46 in the final minute when sophomore guard Lea Moose went to the line for two free throws. She made both to give the Bluejays the lead back, and two more free throws upped the advantage to three.
North Andrew responded with a 3-pointer to force the extra session.
In overtime, the score continued to go back and forth, but a pair of drives resulting in baskets for freshman Faith Stevens helped West Platte take control back. Stevens finished with 10 points, the third player in double figures for the Bluejays.
Stevens and Rachel Heili (11 points) picked up the scoring after Niemeier fouled out.
“I knew they would step up, and they did and sitting on the bench it was crazy,” said Niemeier, who scored 21 points before picking up her fifth foul. “I don’t think I’ve ever jumped so high in my life. They knew it was going to go down to the wire, and it was down to the wire and Faith really stepped up and played some great defense.”
West Platte entered off of a 25-point loss to Orrick two days earlier.
Niemeier scored 10 of her 21 points in the second quarter to send the Bluejays into halftime with a 29-20 lead. The lead reached double figures in the third quarter before North Andrew rallied to the score at 44-44 before taking the lead in the final minute.
“We had a pretty good size lead so we were a little disappointed that we didn’t keep control of the game a little bit better,” West Platte coach Jen Lawson said. “We’re missing a few experienced players so they kind of got a bit scared and worked up with the pressure.”
Orrick 47, West Platte 22
The Bluejays opened the season with a loss Tuesday, Nov. 29 in Orrick, Mo. despite 13 points for Neimeier, who just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Orrick took the lead early and dominated from start to finish.
North Platte 55, Wentworth Military 7
Ten different players scored in a blowout victory for the Panthers on Thursday, Dec. 1 in Dearborn, Mo.
North Platte led 36-2 at halftime and didn’t press after the first minute and didn’t take fastbreak opportunities after the first quarter, which featured 24 points for the Panthers. Wentworth went scoreless in the first quarter and scored single baskets in each of the final three quarters.
Rice put up 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting, while Rickel, Fulton, McKenzie Brockhoff, McKenzie Sams and Jordyn Smith all scored eight or six points apiece. Rickel had six steals, while Gracie Roach added five to go with six assists.
Brockhoff and Brianna Spiers scored their first varsity points.