In a match of two outstanding Lincoln County teams, the Hershey girls outlasted rival North Platte St. Pat’s Thursday to earn a hard fought 41-36 victory.
It was the rubber match between the two schools. The Lady Irish (19-3) won the first meeting at St. Pat’s on Dec. 9 and the Panthers (18-4) came back to defeat the Irish in the SPVA tournament finals on Jan. 20.
The packed gymnasium in Hershey watched as both teams came out hyped up and full of nervous energy, turning the ball over and missing easy inside shots.
Hershey drew first blood after Ashlyn Banks stole an errant pass, drove down court and bounced the ball in to Ashley Hassett for a layup.
But that was the last of the scoring until the 2:28 mark of opening quarter when Jocylin Sellers hit one of two free throws to put St. Pat’s on the board.
The Panthers built their lead to 5-1 near the end of the quarter. But St. Pat’s Abbi Allberry sank a three-pointer to close the gap to one.
The second quarter opened with both teams continuing to apply full court pressure. Hassett, the top gun in the Panther offense, picked up two quick personal fouls and spent most of the period on the bench.
Things weren’t any better for the Irish as one of their two top scorers, Hayley Homan, picked up a third foul in the last minute of the first half.
Neither offense could get in sync and Hershey went to the locker room with a slim 13-11 lead in the low-scoring game.
In the second half, both teams began to find some offensive rhythm, but the leading scorers were not a factor.
Hassett was called for her third foul early in the period, sending her back to the bench. Likewise, Homan got a fourth and took a seat on the St. Pat’s sideline.
Hershey built their lead to 18-13, but the Irish responded and took their first lead of the game, 22-21, before the Panthers went on a 5-2 run to end the quarter ahead, 27-24.
It was nip and tuck in the fourth. The Irish scored the first three points to tie the game at 27.
Dayonna Roberts put in a long three-pointer to give Hershey the lead, but St. Pat’s tied the game at 31 with a little over three minutes left on the clock.
Then Hershey built the lead to 37-31. It looked like they had the game in hand, but there was no quit in the Irish. A quick basket, a turnover and a free throw pulled them back within three points.
With time running out, the Irish were forced to foul to extend the game. The Panthers were up to the task, hitting four straight free throws, including two by Roberts with seven seconds left to seal the deal for Hershey.
St. Pat’s Kaleigh Kummer led all scorers with 13 points. Sellers added seven.
Emily Barr led Hershey with nine points. Hassett and Tyra Otzel each scored eight.
Hershey coach Michael Jorgenson said it was a great win for Hershey.
“We put up a lot of points Tuesday against Paxton, then had a tough game tonight so both games over the week balanced out,” he said. “I am so proud of our team, St. Pat’s is a heck of a team that we took two out of three from this year.”
Jorgenson complimented Kummer, the Lady Irish’s leading scorer.
“You know last weekend Kaleigh Kummer hit 7-12 three pointers. She is going to hit some and pressure you,” Jorgenson said. “There at the end, with three of the Irish starters out, she was still pushing it. She did a heck of a job. Hats off to her.”
Next, Hershey will play in sub-district competition Tuesday at North Platte High School.
The No. 1 seeded Panthers will face the winner of Monday’s bunny bracket game between No. 4 Ogallala (8-14) and No. 5 Cozad (5-16).
“We will have to be ready to play,” Jorgenson said. “The win tonight gives us some momentum but teams in our sub-district like Cozad and Chase County have really improved. Their records mean nothing,” Jorgenson said.
St. Pat’s, the No. 1 seed in C2-11 will take on No. 4 Perkins County (2-16) Tuesday in the first round. The game will be in Hershey.
At the end of the regular season, the Lady Irish are tied for fourth in the Class C2 wild card point standings. Hershey is 10th.
Hershey: 5-8-14-14 –41
St. Pat’s: 4-7-13-12 –36