Seemingly, just about everything North Platte put up on Thursday night went in as the Bulldogs never trailed in their 67-53 upset of Scottsbluff at the Dawg House.
“We just moved the ball well on offense,” said Steven Garcia, who led NPHS with 23 points. “It all starts with defense. We just play defense first and the offense came after that. We just had a lot of heart and we knew it’d be a tough game. This is the best defense we’ve played all year.”
North Platte (7-13) took a 7-2 lead three minutes in after a three-pointer by Garcia.
Scottsbluff (19-3) came back quickly to tie the game at 12 with a putback by Dawson Mohr that followed a Chance Parker three. But River Johnston put in an Aiden Mann miss at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs the lead back at the end of the first quarter.
Mann made a layup to begin the second before Garcia pulled up from the right wing and made another trey. Then with just under two minutes gone by in the quarter, Garcia scored again in transition to make it a nine-point lead.
North Platte continued to limit the Bearcats on offense and they led 27-21 at halftime.
Bulldog coach Matt Kaminski said his team had some confidence after their 55-37 loss on Feb. 7 to 17-2 Hastings in which they also led at halftime.
“I just think they were feeding off last week’s scenario with Hastings,” he said. “We just talked about having that desire and making sure we’re physical against everybody. We haven’t had many home games and we feed off the crowd. We had just about as good of a start as you can have because not only were we making shots but they were the right kind of shots. They were aggressive and we had good actions. We put them on their heels a little bit.”
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs expanded the lead and went up by double figures at 39-28 after Finn Lucas buried a 15-foot jumper along the baseline on the right side.
NPHS led 46-36 at the end of the third quarter after Kade Mohr nailed a three from the left corner at the buzzer and from there, the Dawgs never let up. Scottsbluff never came within single digits as North Platte made 11 free throws to finish it off.
“We were in the same kind of scenario that we were in last week against Hastings,” Kaminski said. “The third quarter was the key. We kept them at arm’s length. We handled their pressure when they cranked it up. We made a ton of timely shots and we’ve been up and down, all year, offensively. Our defense has kept us in games for the most part. But we made about every shot we needed to tonight. This is impressive. This is one of the better victories we’ve had in the last 10 years. This group has earned a night like this and I’m just proud of them.”
After beating the Bearcats for the first time in six years, the Bulldog players celebrated on the court with the Boneyard student section.
Garcia said the team was determined to play well at home against Scottsbluff, who beat them by 27 at the GNAC tournament on Jan. 3.
“It felt really good tonight,” he said. “We played them earlier this season and we didn’t get what we wanted. So playing them tonight, we had a lot of heart and that showed for sure.”
Next, North Platte will host Gering (9-13) on Friday night.
Score by quarters:
Scottsbluff: 12-9-15-17 – 53
North Platte: 14-13-19-21 – 67
Scottsbluff (53)-Quentin Scott 3, Jasiya DeOllos 21, Jack Darnell 3, Chance Parker 5, Dawson Mohr 14, Sam Clarkson 7
North Platte (67)-Luke Zimbelman 4, Steven Garcia 23, Aiden Mann 4, Ryan Kaminski 4, Finn Lucas 3, Derrek Ramos 3, Kade Mohr 7, River Johnston 19
Free throws: S 5-12, NP 12-19; Three-point goals: S 8 (DeOllos 3, Mohr 2, Scott, Darnell, Parker), NP 9 (Garcia 5, Johnston 2, Zimbelman, Ramos, Mohr)