The North Platte Community College women's basketball team was set to make Coach Dick Thurin's last game at the McDonald-Belton Gymnasium on Saturday one to remember with a strong first half.But timely baskets by the Dakota College at Bottineau in the second half propelled the Jacks to a 70-63 victory in the District F championship.
Bottineau (16-14) will play in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in Harrison, Ark., which starts on March 21, while NPCC finishes the season with a 10-19 record.
Thurin said it wasn't the way he wanted to go out, but he will look back fondly at what he accomplished in his 16 years as coach of the Lady Knights -- leading the team to National Tournament appearances in 2011 and 2013, as well as giving many student-athletes the opportunity to play college basketball and get an education.
"It was a disappointment but we did a lot of good things in North Platte," he said.
The Dakota College at Bottineau began the game with a 7-2 lead. But NPCC got into the game when Jessica Lovitt scored the next two baskets in the low post.
The Knights had success running their offense through Lovitt inside in the first half. They took their first lead of the game at 10-9 after two more buckets by the 5'10" sophomore from Mullen. North Platte then expanded the lead to 16-11 before Bottineau scored the last three points of the first quarter.
But NPCC regained control in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Mickenzie Brennan got a layup and later made a free throw to make it 19-14. The Lady Knights held serve for the rest of the half to lead 28-24 at halftime.
"We were getting the ball where we wanted it," Thurin said of the first half.
Bottineau took the momentum in the third quarter. The Jacks tied the game at 34 all with a layup by Victoria Obergfull and they took the lead on the next possession with a three-pointer by Darby Deckert.
Victoria Brown answered with a three to tie the game on the other end. But Chelsie Deibert made two straight treys to give the Jacks a 43-37 lead.
The Knights drew to within 45-42 at the end of the third and they got a bucket by Thomesha Wilson on the opening possession of the fourth to make it a one-point game.
But Bottineau scored the next five points to keep the momentum. North Platte didn't back down and Tichy nailed a three with 4:29 left to make it a one-possession game at 59-56.
That was the closest the Lady Knights got. Stephanie Brenden scored the next four for the Jacks with a basket and a pair of free throws and then Madison Erickson scored inside to make it 65-56 with 2:48 remaining. NPCC couldn't recover and the Dakota College of Bottineau clinched their spot at Nationals.
"They shot the ball well and they put in a lot of three-pointers in the second half," Thurin said.
It was a hard way to end a tough season for the Lady Knights. But their retiring coach said he'll remember how they put themselves in position to accomplish their main goal for the season.
"They played their best at the end," he said. "They fought and battled hard."
Score by quarters:
Dakota College at Bottineau 14-10-21-25 - 70
North Platte CC 16-12-14-21 - 63
Dakota College at Bottineau (70)-Stephanie Brenden 11, Dior Dioum 1, Victoria Obergfull 14, Darby Deckert 12, Madison Erickson 18, Chelsie Deibert 14
North Platte CC (63)-Victoria Brown 12, Mai'Zhrae Zeno 2, Thomesha Wilson 15, Mickenzie Brennan 3, Allison Tichy 3, Jessica Lovitt 24, Lexa Lealiiee 2
Free Throws: DCB 15-29, NPCC 4-9; Three Point Goals: DCB 5 (Deckert 2, Deibert 2, Brenden), NPCC 5 (Brown 4, Tichy)