Adding in a few talented components actually presented a bit of a risk — at least for the short-term momentum.
Yet, Platte County didn’t miss a beat with the return of senior forward Joey Schultz and junior Brody Fulk after completing football season with a state runnerup finish. They played a big role in the Pirates’ comfortable 75-59 victory over Grandview in their Suburban Conference Blue Division opener Tuesday at Platte County High School.
Maybe still not at full strength, Platte County improved to 6-0 on the season and earned its first win over Grandview since January of 2015 in the process.
“We’re a real puzzle, and we’re still trying to find our pieces to the puzzle,” said Schultz, who finished a with a team-high 15 points — his best scoring total in three games. “I was really trying to find my piece back in the puzzle to finish the puzzle up. And tonight, it was a grind win; we didn’t shoot as well as we could have, but it was definitely a grind win, so that’s another thing our team can do.”
Platte County mostly navigated Grandview’s constant full-court pressure and never trailed after opening on an 8-0 run that included four points and a pair of steals for Schultz.
The 2018 and 2019 Class 4 state champions, Grandview didn’t look the same as some of its recent powerhouse versions but still received a game-high 29 points from forward Damien Stephens and 14 more from guard Jordan McGee. The Bulldogs were unable to make any long, prolonged scoring runs with Platte County’s balanced and deep attack coming up with answer after answer.
Platte County junior guard Jarett Mueller, the emerging leading scorer early in the season, finished with 12 points, while junior point guard Jace Trimble and senior guard Daunte Alaiwat added 10 apiece. Nine different players scored for the Pirates.
“It’s good to have everybody back,” Mueller said. “We’re a very deep team now, and it’s going to be very hard to compete with the rest of the year.
“It’s great that everybody can come in and contribute when their number is called.”
Up 37-26 at halftime, Platte County pushed the lead to 43-28 with a quick run to start the third quarter, highlighted by the first of Schultz’s two dunks. Fulk then scored five of his eight points during a key stretch that helped maintain the 15-point lead.
Schultz is a 6-foot-6 all-conference and all-district performer, while Fulk has starting experience but continues to come off the bench so far this season.
“Brody kind of gives us a lot of different things,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “He’ll give you a ballhandler; he’ll give you a little bit of a scorer. He works hard on defense, gives you a little bit of a body to rebound. The nice thing about Brody in that rotation is he gives you quite a bit. We have kids that only give you certain things, but he’s one that we can go to in different situations to give us something different. And you’re always going to get good effort from him.”
Grandview ran off six straight points early in the fourth quarter to briefly get within nine.
Platte County senior guard Jaden Burnett (six points) then came up with a runout layup after the Pirates broke pressure to make it 60-49, and the lead remained at double digits for the final 6½ minutes. Mueller hit a corner 3-pointer — his second of the game to push it back to 64-51, and Schultz threw down a one-handed dunk running through the lane after a turnover to push the lead back to 15.
Alex McClure, a senior guard, provided the exclamation point for Platte County with a 3 from the left wing with 1:21 to play. He finished with eight points, which included a pair of 3-pointers, and the Pirates led by as much as 18 in the closing moments.
“Everybody on our team has been moving the ball, just everybody’s hustling. It’s just great team effort by everybody,” Mueller said. “Everybody’s been putting in the work, and it’s made for a great start.”
Platte County ended up with a memorable if not unconventional Senior Night, honoring seven seniors — Alaiwat, Burnett, reserve guard Ben Doole, McClure, reserve center Dylan Montes, Schultz and Cooper Wilcox (four points).
“Due to COVID, I’m not in the belief that we’re going to get completely shut down,” Hodge said, “but I just didn’t want to get to a game late in the season where either you’re getting ready for your senior night and the other team calls and says, ‘We’re not coming,’ and you lose your senior night. Or you have a senior night and two kids are home on a quarantine, and I didn’t want that either. I told the kids at the beginning of the season the first home game that we have where zero seniors are on a quarantine and we’re all here, we’re just going to do it, and we’re going to honor them and go from there.
“It is what it is. It’s the world of COVID right now, and we’re just making do and doing the best we possibly can.”
Grandview provided an imposing obstacle, having won nine straight in the series dating to the first meeting in the 2014-15 season.
However, Schultz’s fast start provided a shot of confidence for an experienced Platte County roster in need of its first marquee win in a promising season. Mueller hit his first 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the first quarter to make it 14-7 after the Grandview made its first run, and after the score was tied 16-16 early in the second, the Pirates came up with an 8-0 run — capped with McClure’s first 3 — to take the lead for good.
Trimble had six of his 10 points in the quarter, as Platte County’s lead grew to double digits.
“In years past, we’ve definitely given Grandview the momentum,” Schultz said. “This year we didn’t. They had a couple runs here and there. We stopped them right back and then went on our own runs. That was nice to see.”
The biggest issue came with Platte County turnovers leading to easy baskets, but the Pirates’ depth won out. They now have wins over Grandview and Kearney during the unbeaten start, and after Friday’s scheduled conference rematch with Kearney was postponed due to COVID concerns, the Pirates go into a prolonged holiday break with a few areas of improvement but plenty of reasons for optimism for a team that won just six games total two years ago.
“The kids are continuing to grow; they’re growing together,” Hodge said. “You can see development; you can see improvement. A lot of them are improved tremendously from where they were a year ago. They’re just kind of still running our stuff, and that’s been successful for them so far.
“I think we’ve got a lot of pieces. We’ve talked about the opened-up rotation, accepting roles, and as long as they can do that, I think we’re going to have some success this season.”
Platte County 60, Grain Valley 47
The Pirates pulled away with a strong fourth quarter for a nonconference win Friday in Grain Valley, Mo.
Mueller continued his strong start to Platte County season with 22 points, going 3 for 7 on 3-pointers. Trimble added 10 points and another triple, as the Pirates continued to rely on the starters who didn’t miss the start of the season due to football obligations.
Platte County led 32-26 at halftime, but Grain Valley cut the lead to four entering the final 8 minutes. The Pirates then outscored the Eagles 17-8 in the fourth quarter to make the lead hold up.
Burnett had seven points, while Schultz totaled five points, five rebounds and four assists for Platte County. Mueller and Montes matched Schultz with five rebounds apiece, while Trimble totaled three assists.
Platte County 62, Benton 57
In the first game off of the season-opening Savannah Invitational title, the Pirates prevailed in a close matchup on the road last week.
Trimble led a trio fo double-digit scorers with 11 points to go with a team-high four assists, while Mueller and Alaiwat added 10 apiece. Schultz scored nine in his first game back after completing his football season.
Neither team scored more than 17 in any quarter. Platte County led by just one at halftime and three going into the fourth quarter.
Cooper Wilcox also scored nine points and tied Mueller for the team lead in rebounds with six.