KEARNEY, Mo. — On a night when not much went right, Platte County upped the difficult level with turnovers and missed free throws.
Lafayette (St. Joseph) took advantage of the opportunities to assume control early in the Bulldog Classic championship game Friday night at Kearney High School. The Fighting Irish struggled to score early but used a balanced offense to build an insurmountable lead on the way to a 62-31 victory. The Pirates needed a 20-point fourth quarter against mostly reserves just to close the gap while enduring a running clock.
The loss couldn’t completely undo the positives from big victories over Northeast (Kansas City) and host Kearney to reach the title game. Those ended a three-game losing skid dating back to December 19.
However, Lafayette led tip to final buzzer after holding Platte County (5-8) to just 11 points in the first three quarters. The Pirates were sped up on offense, settled for a lot of difficult shots and could never muster a sustained period of consistent scoring.
Platte County’s defense played well early, but a 3-pointer from Lafayette senior Camden Bennett put the Irish up 12-0 with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first quarter. Pirates coach Rick Hodge took a timeout, and senior Chandavian Bradley went one-on-one out of the timeout to hit a contested jumper for the first points with 1:54 on the clock.
Lafayette followed with five quick ones, including a second 3 for Bennett, and then closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run thanks to alate Steele and layup for sophomore Antonio Williams.
Platte County’s deficit continued to grow, and notably, the Pirates missed their first five free throws, further stifling a struggling offense. They received a spark early in the second quarter from senior reserve forward Kai Oates, who grabbed four offensive rebounds and used one to stick in a putback.
The only other points before halftime for Platte County came on two free throws from junior guard Judah Vignery with 56 seconds left in the second quarter. The Pirates endured two different spells of six-plus minutes without points in the first half and went into the break behind 37-6 with Lafayette scoring four more after Vignery’s free throws — Bennett capping the quick spurt with a layup off of a turnover.
Bradley’s second basket and a 3-pointer for sophomore reserve guard Jaden Peterson accounted for Platte County’s lone points in the third quarter. Bradley finished with just eight points, following Vignery’s first field goal that came early in the fourth quarter with a steal and two-handed dunk for his last highlight before going to the bench.
Peterson ended up hitting two more 3s in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high nine points, while Vignery’s late three-point play gave him seven. The rest of Platte County’s points came from Parker Amos’ 3 in the fourth quarter and a late layup for sophomore reserve Cobe Pollard after Hodge went deep down the bench with the score out of hand.
Prior to the Kearney tournament, Platte County had lost five of six, including a 68-47 defeat on the road at Lafayette on December 12.
Bradley and senior guard Boston Wahlert both made the all-tournament team for Platte County, which will now try to regroup with a home Suburban Conference White Division matchup with Grain Valley on Tuesday. The Pirates also travel to Winnetonka for a nonconference matchup as the second half of a girls-boys doubleheader Thursday.
Platte County 58, Kearney 33
In a semifinal played Thursday, the Pirates dispatched the hosts behind 20 points from Bradley, 18 for Wahlert and 11 for Vignery. The high-scoring trio accounted for all but nine points.
Platte County shot 50% percent from the field (24-48) and earned a second win over a former conference and current Class 5 District 8 rival this season. Wahlert hit two 3s and Vignery another in the first half to help the Pirates take a 24-12 lead into the break.
Kearney managed just three made shots from the floor in the first two quarters and couldn’t take advantage of Platte County’s slow start on offense. Bradley dominated the second half with 12 in the third quarter and 15 of his 20 after halftime and added team-highs of five rebounds and four assists. Wahlert hit two more 3s in the fourth quarter as the Pirates pulled away.
Wahlert had four of Platte County’s 14 steals, while Peterson added three more plus two rebounds and an assist on a scoreless night for him.
Platte County 71, Northeast 29
The Pirates officially ended their losing skid with a dominant effort in Tuesday’s first round game.
Scoring at least 20 in each of the first three quarters, Platte County took control early with Bradley scoring all of his game-high 20 points before the fourth quarter, while adding four rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks. The Pirates ended up with four players in double-figure scoring — Wahlert (14), Peterson (12) and Vignery (10 plus a team-high five rebounds).
Platte County senior forward Trevor Redding scored six points and added team-highs of six assists and five steals. The Pirates also received scoring from Amos (five, including one of their four 3s), Oates (two plus four rebounds) and Pollard (two).