SAVANNAH, Mo. — Rick Hodge admitted to a bit of worry for at least a brief moment in the second quarter Saturday afternoon.
Platte County held firm command in the championship game of the 92nd annual Savannah Invitational, and the Pirates’ veteran coach knew full well the full complement of players weren’t available. Kearney went into the bonus with more than 3 minutes left in the first half, but Platte County weathered the foul issues and cruised to a much-needed 71-52 victory over its chief rival and biggest recent nemesis.
With Platte County’s football team playing in the Class 5 championship game that same day, the Pirates played the entire week with only eight players in uniform, and senior Joey Schultz, junior Brody Fulk and sophomore Chandavian Bradley yet to hit the court this season.
“Hopefully, that will develop that culture in your school and it bleeds into other programs,” Hodge said of the football team’s third deep playoff run in the past four seasons that has left him familiarly short of options to start the season. “You want your football team to be playing in this game, but the downside is we are a little bit short-handed. You live with it and move on.”
Platte County junior guard Jarett Mueller picked up the scoring during the week, tallying a game-high 22 points in the championship game victory, while junior guard Jace Trimble added 20. The Pirates’ football players not available included Schultz, a 6-foot-6 forward who led them in scoring a year ago and topped a promising list of returning contributors.
Mueller made the all-tournament team as Platte County captured the Savannah Invitational title for the second time — first since 2017. The Pirates also reached the final in 2011 and 2018 but lost in the championship to Liberty North and Maryville those seasons, respectively.
Perhaps more importantly, Platte County (3-0) earned a rare win over Kearney, which still holds a dominant 14-4 edge in the last 18 games of the series.
“It was tough, but everybody banded together; it was a team effort,” said Mueller, who scored 10 in the first quarter against Kearney to help build a 23-5 lead. “They are a really good team, and it was nice to beat them with eight players and not a lot of depth. It is a big rivalry and you always want to win; it is tough when you lose against them so we gave it everything we had.”
Five 3-pointers in the first quarter fueled Platte County’s hot start. Trimble and Mueller hit two apiece, and McClure, who also made the all-tournament team, added another in the final minute to push the lead to 21. A buzzer-beater from Kearney’s Drew Gentry closed the gap, but the Bulldogs then went 4-plus minutes of the second quarter without another basket.
McClure, who finished with 13 points, and senior guard Daunte Alaiwat hit 3-pointers in the second quarter for Platte County, and the lead grew to 43-19 by halftime. Kearney hit eight free throws in the final 3 minutes of the half to stay even relatively close.
Despite some scoring lapses in the third quarter, Platte County’s advantage remained at more than 20 points, and a 7-2 run from Kearney closed the gap to 15 points at one point in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs came no closer.
This marked the first tournament title overall for Platte County since the 2017 Savannah Invitational.
“It is always tough to win a tournament,” Hodge said. “It doesn’t matter if you have your whole team or if you have missing players, it is difficult, as well. If anything the kids banded together. I thought we shared the ball well, and (on) defense, we played as well as they could. It’s the first week of the season so you aren’t sure what other teams have and what other teams are missing football players.
“But knowing how hard they have worked and how focused they have been since November 2, I’m not surprised we won.”
Platte County 69, Hogan Prep Academy 59
The Pirates trailed at halftime but scored 36 points in the second half to beat Hogan Prep in the semifinals on Thursday. The Rams were into the semifinals by virtue of a bye from Maryville’s vacated spot. The Spoofhounds pulled out of the tournament two days before it started after the football team reached the Class 3 state championship game.
Down 34-33 at the break, Platte County knocked down 8 of 10 free throws and received a pair of buckets from Alaiwat in the third quarter. Mueller and Alaiwat scored six points apiece in the quarter, which saw the Pirates take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Five players scored at least two points in the fourth quarter for Platte County with senior forward Cooper Wilcox tallying five of his 11 points. Four players finished in double figures with Mueller topping the list at 22 and Trimble adding 17. Alaiwat matched Wilcox’s 11.
Platte County 71, Savannah 32
After a competitive first quarter, the Pirates pulled away over the next 16 minutes in a first round matchup Tuesday.
Platte County scored 23 points in the second quarter to turn an 18-11 advantage into a commanding 41-19 lead at halftime. Savannah hit only two field goals in the second quarter and never recovered.
Six of Platte County’s eight players scored at least two points in the second quarter with senior guard Jaden Burnett tallying seven of his game-high 15 points. The other eight came in the third quarter as the Pirates’ lead ballooned to 55-27.
Platte County senior forward Dylan Montes and Alaiwat added 12 points apiece, while senior guard Alex McClure chipped in 11 and Mueller had the first of his three double-digit scoring games with 10.
McClure knocked down three of Platte County’s seven 3-pointers.