North Platte High bounced back from a near-disastrous third quarter on Monday to defeat Grand Island Northwest, 56-50, at the Dawg House.

“We found a way,” NPHS Head Coach Jimmie Pack said. “Whether it was from the Super Bowl last night or playing three games in four days, we did not come out of halftime ready to roll. But we had a talk and they had a talk amongst themselves and they found a way in the fourth quarter.”

Northwest (7-13) went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter and took a 43-38 lead after Brandon Bykirk made a pair of free throws with eight seconds left in the period. Caden Joneson quickly raced down the floor, was fouled at the rim and made both free throws to stop end the drought for North Platte (8-9) with two seconds remaining in the third.

Both teams battled in the fourth quarter. NPHS went up 51-49 with 1:41 left when Jesse Mauch pulled up and made a 16 foot jump shot. Neither team scored again until there was 28 seconds left, when Landon O’Brien hit a pair of free throws to put the Bulldogs up by four.

Sam Dinkelman was fouled on the other end 10 seconds later, but he only made one of his two free throws. Lance Gifford was fouled immediately and he also went one of two from the line to keep the margin at four.

Bykirk’s attempt at a three didn’t even draw iron. O’Brien went back to the line and he made both free throws to put the game away with eight seconds left.

The Bulldogs won the game at the free throw line and the work they put into them before school, a practice that goes back to when Pack played for North Platte and Coach Dan Moore over 20 years ago.

“We went 15 of 18 from the line tonight and we have been shooting free throws at seven o’clock in the morning,” Pack said. “The old Bulldog tradition is back. We have a championship belt that gets passed around and every week someone has a chance to win it from the current owner.”

The game began with Mauch scoring the first five points of the game when he made two free throws and he hit a straightaway three after receiving an inbound pass. Cam Jensen answered with the first two baskets for Northwest and Cam Walker scored inside to give the Vikings the lead. But NPHS led 14-8 at the end of the first quarter after Gifford scored four straight on a basket and two free throws.

The Bulldog lead grew to nine in the second quarter and that was the margin at halftime with the score being 33-24.

Northwest’s run started with a three by Jensen. Bykirk got a basket and Dinkelman buried a three to bring the Vikings to within 38-37. They tied the game with a Walker free throw and they took the lead when Bykirk scored inside. Bykirk scored the next three on free throws to finish the stretch.

But North Platte corrected themselves in the fourth quarter and got the win.

“Our effort on defense wasn’t very good,” Pack said. “We weren’t communicating like we know how, we weren’t fighting through screens, we weren’t boxing out and it showed. We fought back and we got back into it in the fourth quarter when we started doing those things.”

Gifford led the Bulldogs with 22 points and Mauch had 21.

Next, NPHS will host Lexington (4-17) in their home finale on Thursday.

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