The ball caromed off the rim in a less-than-desirable direction.
Smithville junior guard Ryker Edwards tracked the ball down and corralled the long rebound on the run. With only 1.2 seconds on the clock, he fired a runner from thee-quarters court Friday at Smithville High School and seemingly everyone in a packed gymnasium collectively held their breath — half in anticipation and half in dread — of a miracle finish.
Instead, the shot bounced harmlessly off the backboard, and Platte County survived for a 74-73 victory in a key Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup. All five starters scored in double figures for the Pirates, who led the majority of the game but somehow ended up needing to overcome a five-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.
Nothing could be taken for granted until the final shot from Edwards, who scored an impressive game-high 37 points, missed.
“Of course,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said before admitting he thought the shot might go in. “Because of how much he had throughout the night, whether it’s the 3 ball or he’s good at driving it, too. But yeah, of course, you’re thinking that when a guy has 37 points and seven 3s. You’re concerned when the ball is in his hands.”
Platte County’s balance ended up winning out while enduring an emotion-fueled comeback. Pirates senior guard Jarett Mueller finished with a team-high 18 points, while senior backcourt mate Jace Trimble turned in a second straight solid performance with 17 more.
However, Platte County emerging junior forward Chandavian Bradley finished with 16 points and came up with a game-tying two-handed dunk with less than a minute left in regulation and then going 1-for-4 on free throws in a chaotic final 15 seconds that turned out to be just enough.
“Man, I couldn’t hit a free throw to save my life tonight, but I still ended up coming clutch to seal us our win,” said Bradley, who has scored in double figures in seven of the past eight games.
Platte County (12-2, 5-1 Blue Division) led by 14 points on multiple occasions and appeared in good position after surviving a late first-half charge.
Instead, Smithville chipped away at the lead behind the high-scoring duo of Edwards, who tied the school record of seven 3-pointers in a game that Brad Schram set against the Pirates in last year’s Smithville-based fixture of this rivalry, and senior Keltin Nitsche (13). The Warriors hit 11 shots from beyond the arc total.
Platte County senior forward Isaac Havemeier scored the last of his 11 points to open the second half and push the Pirates’ advantage back out to 43-29. Smithville outscored them 24-14 during the remainder of the third quarter with Edwards hitting two 3s and totaling 13 points during that stretch. The Warriors briefly tied it at 51-51 but would not regain the lead until about 5 minutes remained in regulation.
“We weren’t really executing as well as we can,” Bradley said. “We just needed to get our stuff together because the ball was sticking in people’s hands. And we don’t want that as a team. We want to keep moving the ball around. That’s what the offense is made for.”
Judah Vignery, a sophomore reserve for Platte County, scored his only two points — and the only bench points — on a pair of free throws and Mueller added two more as part of six unanswered in response. However, Smithville junior Caleb Donnell hit a runner at the buzzer to tighten it back up to 57-53.
Donnell’s basket ended up starting a 14-4 run. A 3 from junior Dawson Strickland cut Platte County’s lead to 61-60, and Donnell added two free throws to put the Warriors up one points, their first lead since 2-0 in the opening moments of the first quarter.
After a miss on the other end, Edwards buried his seventh and record-tying 3 to make it 65-61. The advantage grew to 68-63 on his steal and breakaway uncontested layup. An offensive foul on the other end left the Warriors with the ball and only 2:40 remaining in regulation.
“It’s not deflating or hard to overcome,” Bradley said of Edwards’ display. “It’s great defense, but it’s even better offense. There’s nothing you can really do about it.”
Platte County’s comeback started with a tough 3-pointer for senior forward Brody Fulk, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, from an odd angle in the left corner. Trimble added a pull-up triple from the right wing on the next possession.
Fulk’s shot brought Platte County within one, and Trimble’s tied it at 71-71, but it wouldn’t be the last deadlock of the final 1:19.
Havemeier fouled out moments later with seven rebounds and four blocks on a questionable foul that could have been a clean block. Smithville split a pair of free throws, but Platte County came up with a designed play out of a timeout that concluded with a two-handed flush from Bradley rolling down the right side of the key to put the Pirates back in front at 73-72. Warriors senior Rhett Foster missed on the other end, but Trimble couldn’t convert a contested layup with pleas for a foul from the Platte County bench going unheard.
The resulting loose ball rebound resulted in a foul on Bradley that sent Edwards to the line.
“We talked to them before the game about playing with poise no matter what happened,” Hodge said. “At halftime, I told them, ‘They are going to make a run. They’re going to make a run in their home gym, and they’re going to hit some shots,’ because this is a very good shooting team. And they did that, and they even went up five.
“They were locking up Mueller tough, so it had to come from other areas.”
Edwards went to the line with 37.7 seconds on the clock and hit the first to tie it, but after a Platte County timeout, he missed the second shot, leaving the score tied at 73-73. Bradley ended up at the line on the other end and made 1 of 2 to account for the game’s final points with 15.8 seconds left.
Smithville came down the floor, but the ball didn’t end up in Edwards’ hands. Instead, Donnell drew a blocking foul with 8.0 seconds to go, and he missed the first. After a Platte County timeout, he also missed the second.
“The better outcome is to get the charge call so the ball’s in our hands,” Hodge said. “You’re always weary about putting a kid on the foul line because you can’t guard that. How did it play out? Well, it played out in our favor because he missed them both.”
The ball rolled off the rim awkwardly, and Smithville ended up with the loose ball rebound and a timeout with 3.0 seconds left. The Warriors were forced to inbound the ball from the deep left sideline near the corner with Bradley picking off the pass and drawing a foul with 1.2 on the clock.
After throwing the ball up in the air a potentially dangerous moment of celebration, Bradley went to the other end and missed both shots at the line. That led to the final chance for Edwards, who attempted what would have been a memorable record-breaking 3-pointer.
“You also have to give kids credit with how well they defended at the end (after Bradley’s dunk),” Hodge said. “Switching everything on the perimeter, knowing who to guard and doing what they needed to do. And that’s when Chandavian got the steal. Chandavian got the steal, but the reason he got the steal is everyone else did their job.”
Platte County beat Smithville in 2 of 3 meetings between the two a year ago, but the Warriors prevailed in the first at home. The Pirates committed early turnovers that helped create an early deficit that ultimately proved too much to overcome thanks to Schram’s career night with seven 3s.
The start of this one looked similar with a turnover in the opening moments leading to a runout layup and a 2-0 lead for Smithville.
Platte County responded differently this time around with Mueller answering with a 3-pointer and Trimble pulling a familiar move to jump in and steal the ensuing inbounds pass. He missed the layup but grabbed his own rebound and fed Bradley for an early bucket inside.
“(Jace) is just feisty,” Bradley said. “He knows how to turn around quick enough to where they’ll think he’s running back but then he’ll come back. And they won’t notice it so he’ll get the easy steal, get the easy bucket.”
Mueller had a pair of 3s, and Havemeier started an early run of offense to make it a 14-5 lead, prompting a timeout from Smithville with 3:57 left in the first quarter. The Pirates ended up scoring 26 in the frame with Havemeier accounting for nine. The 6-foot-6 first-year starter, who didn’t play varsity until this season, even threw down an easy running one-handed dunk to make it 18-8.
Fulk added a 3-pointer and then airmailed another that essentially became a pass to Havemeier for another inside basket, prompting another Warriors’ timeout while down 23-10. Havemeier finished off the quarter with a three-point play and then blocked Donnell’s second-chance shot at the buzzer to keep the Pirates’ advantage at a healthy 26-13.
“He’s very important to this team,” Hodge said. “He has come so far. I’m so proud of that kid for how far he has come over the years and how much better of a player he is. He’s such a good kid and a tremendous basketball player. He’s developed so much on both ends. He wasn’t just giving us points in the paint on the offensive end. He is such a rim-protector presence on the defensive end.”
Nitsche hit both of his 3-pointers and scored eight of his 13 in the first quarter. After accounting for just four in the opening 8 minutes, Edwards hit a series of four mostly contested — and some extremely contested — 3-pointers in quick succession in the second. A few of the high-arcing shots barley hit the net, much less the rim as his confidence visibly grew.
Trimble answered the first with a 3 of his own, and Bradley stepped outside for a rare triple moments later to help keep the lead for the Pirates at double digits. It even stretched to 37-23, only for Edwards to bury another 3 in response.
Smithville kept seeming on the verge of a big run but couldn’t really cut into the deficit. A runout layup for Trimble, who had eight of his 17 in the second quarter, ended up as a three-point play after a hard foul on Warriors senior Marcus Garza at the end of the play. The Pirates were up 41-29 with under a minute left in the first half and survived three 3-point attempts from Smithville on the final possession to take that advantage into halftime. Nitsche and Edwards had 26 of the Warriors’ 29 at that point.
“I’m not one bit surprised this thing came down to the wire,” Hodge said. “And in fact, if anything, I’m surprised we had the lead we did because there’s a lot of fight in (Smithville), and they have a lot of confidence and they shoot the ball with confidence. So with a double-digit lead at halftime, of course we’re happy.”
Smithville made multiple runs but ultimately dropped to 3-2 in conference play.
Platte County continued to maintain its position in second place behind Ruskin (9-8, 4-0), which handed the Pirates a loss in double overtime earlier this month. Two of Platte County’s Blue Division games have gone to double overtime in addition to the nail-biter at Smithville on Friday.
Up next comes a break from conference play with Grain Valley’s Sonic Showdown this week. Platte County owns the No. 1 seed and open Tuesday against Marshall at 4 p.m. with semifinals scheduled for Thursday and the place matches on Saturday. The Pirates next conference games the first week of February will look winnable vs. Winnetonka and at Kearney before a closing challenge of at Raytown South (double overtime win in first matchup), vs. Grandview (four-point win minus Mueller due to injury), vs. Ruskin and vs. Smithville.
“Those games are going to be even better,” Bradley said.
Platte County 81, Winnetonka 62
The Pirates bolted to a big lead in Tuesday’s conference game at Winnetonka High School with Mueller producing a game-high 29 points. He hit five 3s total, while Trimble broke out of a slump with 18 points, including a 3-for-4 effort on 3-pointers and five steals..
Bradley failed to break double-figures in scoring for the first time since the holiday break, but the backcourt duo provided more than enough offense.
Platte County led 23-9 after the first quarter and pulled away with 25 points in the fourth quarter. Havemeier produced a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds to go with six blocks, while Fulk went for eight points and eight rebounds. Bradley and Vignery added seven apiece.