DEARBORN, Mo. — West Platte ended up facing a familiar challenge in a disappointing appearance in the North Platte Invitational fifth-place game.
North Platte and West Platte played for the fourth time this season with the tournament hosts owning a major historical advantage in the series. However, the Bluejays made it 4-for-4 this season with a 44-31 victory Friday, Jan. 27 at North Platte Junior High.
In four meetings this season, West Platte increased its margin of victory in each successive matchup, culminating with Friday’s win. North Platte owned a winning streak over its main rival dating back well more than a decade entering the season but still couldn’t solve the Bluejays this time around.
“I think they were a little worried because we played last night so (North Platte) has had a few nights to prepare for us and to try and figure out a game plan but it ended up working out OK,” West Platte coach Jen Lawson said.
West Platte needed a win the night before to extend its tournament.
North Platte came out hot in a change of pace from recent slow starts and held an 11-5 lead after the first quarter behind six of Grace Rice’s 12 points. West Platte freshman Faith Stevens grabbed the first of her six steals to shift the Bluejays offense into gear, and with just over 2 minutes left in the first half, senior Nealie Niemeier hit a shot to put them up 16-15.
West Platte didn’t trail again with Niemeier, the Bluejays’ leading scorer, finishing with 10 points after missing the tournament’s opening game with the flu.
Stevens ended up with 14 points, eight in the second quarter. She seems to have carved out a permanent spot in the starting lineup and has shown increased confidence with her advanced role.
“Kind of nervous but when you get the ball you just focus on the basket,” Stevens said.
West Platte closed the first half on a big run and led 22-15 at the break. Stevens added two more steals leading to baskets in the second half to finish off her career night.
“She’s got quick hands,” Lawson said. “She still has some fundamental man-to-man positioning things that we’re working through in practice, but she’s just quick and she can utilize that and be in the right place at the right time and get her hands going.”
Rachel Heili added 10 points in the win for West Platte, while Rice and Janell Manville scored 12 apiece for North Platte in the loss. Only five players tallied points for the Panthers, who shot only six free throws total with one make.
West Platte 69, Central Academy of Excellence 14
With Niemeier back, the Bluejays obliterated the tournament’s No. 7 seed Thursday, Jan. 26 in Dearborn, Mo.
Niemeier put up 13 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, while Lea Moose (14) and Alexa Raney (10) also scored in double figures for West Platte, which opened as the tournament’s No. 4 seed. The Bluejays led 42-11 at halftime, and Moose hit four 3s in the third quarter while Central failed to score for more than 8 minutes of the second half.
Northland Christian 53, West Platte 22
The Bluejays offense never got started with Niemeier missing a game due to illness Tuesday, Jan. 24 in Dearborn, Mo.
Stevens started and scored the lone points in the first quarter for the Bluejays. Northland Christian led 18-2 after 8 minutes and 29-9 at halftime behind 14 of Liz Kruse’s game-high 24 points.
Stevens finished with six points, while Raney added four. West Platte hit just 10 field goals and attempted only four free throws.
Mound City 47, North Platte 27
In its second pool game, North Platte scored just 11 points in the first half in another frustratingly slow start.
Mound City, the No. 2 seed which went on to finish second in the tournament, led 27-11 at halftime and easily held on despite a slow third quarter. Rice led North Platte with six points, while McKenzie Sams and Alley Rickel added five apiece.
West Platte 55, KC East 28
The Bluejays dominated a nonconference matchup Monday, Jan. 30 in Kansas City, Mo. behind 23 points for Niemeier.
Raney added 11 points for her second double-figure game in two weeks for West Platte, which led 52-19 after three quarters. A running clock was in effect for much of the second half.
West Platte played Northland Christian on Tuesday, Jan. 31, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
Cass-Midway 53, North Platte 34
The Panthers’ losing streak hit nine in a nonconference matchup Monday, Jan. 30 in Cleveland, Mo.
North Platte scored just two points in the first quarter and trailed 25-12 at halftime. Rice continued her run of strong play, leading the Panthers with eight points. McKenzie Brockhoff, a freshman forward, added seven off the bench.
Now at 3-13 overall, North Platte has not won since Jan. 3 at Maysville. The Panthers were scheduled to return to action Tuesday, Jan. 31 in a makeup game at home vs. Mound City, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.