Eric Mitchell saw exactly the type of resilience he wants from his players.
Unfortunately, Platte County’s first-year coach also witnessed a crippling first half stretch that ultimately proved too much to overcome in Thursday’s non conference matchup at Pirate Fieldhouse. Kearney rolled into halftime with a double-digit lead then fended off a pair of pair of Pirates’ comeback attempts to hold on for a 45-42 victory that further muddies the seeding scenarios for a competitive Class 5 District 8 field.
Platte County (11-6) entered on a two-game winning streak and erased two 14-point deficits, tying the score late at 37-37 then watching senior Joslyn Hupp’s 3-point attempt from the right corner at the regulation buzzer end up off target.
“This group has pretty much done this all year,” Mitchell said. “I wish we didn’t have to do that all the time, but they want to play hard. They want to do things right. They’re a good group of kids. We just have to learn how to put a full game together and be a little bit more consistent than what we’re being right now.”
Hupp finished with nine points, four rebounds and three assists in what ended up a balanced offensive effort for Platte County with sophomores Addy Schlake (eight points, five rebounds and two blocks) and Lauren Stone (eight points) keying the fourth quarter surge that nearly delivered a comeback win.
Kearney scored just four points in the third quarter as the once-comfortable lead evaporated. Bulldogs senior Jadyn Barnes split a pair of free throws and added a 3-pointer to force Mitchell into a timeout with 5 minutes, 1 second on the clock in the third quarter with the Pirates trailing 33-19.
Platte County closed the third quarter on a 9-0 run thanks to repeated defensive stops. A key sequence played out in the final minute of the frame when Kearney tried to run out down the clock with hopes of a late shot, only for Barnes to pick up a loose-ball foul after an errant pass nearly led to a runout opportunity. The Pirates took advantage with junior guard Lydia Doole hitting a left wing 3 to pull them within 33-28 going to the fourth quarter.
“Lydia hit a big shot,” Mitchell said.
Platte County made it an 11-0 run when Schlake scored a putback of Doole missed 3 on the opening possession of the fourth quarter.
Schlake missed a layup that would have cut Kearney’s lead to one, but after the Bulldogs ended their drought of more than 7 minutes without a point, Stone answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Platte County within 35-33. She came off the bench in the second half after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury that also put her status in doubt for the Kearney matchup.
“We were a little unsure,” Mitchell said. “Kind of talked to her at halftime, see how she felt. I don’t even know if she was 100 percent behind it, but we asked her to give it a go. She got in there and I think realized she could do some things. The thing about Lauren is she’s pretty fearless. She’s not afraid to put the ball in her hands and take some tough shots.”
Platte County closed within two once more at 37-35 on Schlake’s final basket then tied it up at 37-37 on a layup from sophomore guard Haley Barlow with 4:03 left in regulation. The Pirates went behind for the first time with 17 left in the first quarter and trailed from that point forward.
Kearney responded when Schlake missed the front end of a one-and-one that would have put Platte County back in front. Instead, the Bulldogs responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from freshman Brooke Paalhar and sophomore Ryleigh Van Emmerik to suddenly establish a six-point lead.
The second 3 came after Doole appeared to convert a running basket and draw a foul to create a chance at a tying three-point play for Platte County. Instead, an official whistled her for a travel that negated the basket and left Mitchell visibly confounded at the call.
“You can only control what you can control,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to buckle down defensively and get a stop in that scenario.”
Platte County made one more push after Stone buried a second 3-pointer with 39.9 seconds on the clock after Barnes missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, leading Mitchell to take a timeout and set up full-court pressure defense. Kearney immediately turned the ball over on the inbounds, and Doole missed a potential tying 3-pointer.
A hustling offensive rebound led to a second-chance pull-up basket from Stone in the lane to make it 43-42 with 23.5 seconds left.
Kearney junior JoJo Kutch made two free throws in a critical spot, and out of another timeout, Platte County ended up forced to work the ball around with Hupp eventually taking the final shot with time running out. Instead of going to overtime, the Pirates ended up with a frustrating loss.
“We had three opportunities with the game tied to take the lead, and we just didn’t do it,” Mitchell said. “Credit to them. They hung in there and made a couple of shots late and made us play from behind again.
“We were trying to get (Doole) there the last possession. We just couldn’t find her.”
Currently, Class 5 District 8 features up to five teams potentially battling for the top seed with Kearney (7-10) holding some important criteria with wins over Platte County and Smithville (10-7), which also lost to the Pirates in December. However, Smithville and Kearney play again on February 17, and St. Teresa’s Academy (5-7) has a win over the Bulldogs and no other common opponents.
Lincoln Prep (8-8) has also beaten Smithville and could see Kearney in this week’s North Kansas City Tournament.
Platte County likely missed the final chance to solidify a No. 1 seed resume. The Pirates led most of the first quarter, and baskets from senior forward Reese Pickett and Hupp early in the second quarter twice pulled the Pirates back within one — the closest the score would be until the final minutes of regulation.
Due to injuries, Platte County played the first half without Stone and junior reserve Delaney Childers with Mitchell forced to alter his normal rotations and lineups.
Hupp scored five and Barlow four of her team-high 10 in the first quarter, but Kearney held Platte County to just six in the second quarter. The Bulldogs three 3s during a dominant stretch to close the first half, starting with a 12-0 run. Schlake ended the drought for the Pirates with a bucket in the final minute, only for Van Emmerik to hit a 3 at the buzzer that established the first of two 14-point leads.
“That was as poor as we’ve played in a quarter defensively in a little bit of time,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to coach better; we’ve got to execute better top to bottom. We’ve just got to be better. In that second quarter, it got away from us, and that’s probably the difference tonight.”
Platte County went into halftime down 29-15, and Barlow and Pickett scored layups on the first two possessions of the third quarter, only for Kearney to score its only points of the frame to force the Pirates into a scenario of erasing a 14-point gap with 13 minutes remaining.
“That was all our own doing,” Mitchell said. “Kearney did a great job. They were very ready to play us; their girls were hungry, and we kind of sat back and watched in the first half and didn’t go make the plays that needed to be made. That’s on us.
“We had to settle down at halftime and make a couple of adjustments.”
Platte County 49, William Chrisman 38
The Pirates improved their Suburban Conference White Division record to 2-2 on Monday night in Independence, riding a hot start to a double-digit win.
Barlow continued her recent run of strong offensive lay with a team-11 points plus a pair of assists and two steals. She scored six in the first quarter, while Doole and senior reserve guard Morgan Stewart each added a 3-pointer with Platte County bolting to a 13-1 lead and taking a 16-5 advantage into the second quarter. The Pirates pushed that all the way out to 28-11 at halftime with William Chrisman hitting just three shots from the floor in the first 16 minutes.
Schlake ended up posting a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Hupp added 10 more in a dominant post effort for Platte County. William Chrisman found much more offensive success in the second half, but the Pirates hit enough free throws (11 of 20) to stay in control.
Doole finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Pickett managed six points despite a difficult shooting night from the floor and the line.
Platte County faces rematches with each of the other four conference opponents over a two-week stretch of February. The Pirates currently sit third behind unbeaten Raytown and 2-1 Grain Valley.