Missing two starters, Jayla Fleck and Jenna Kimberling, North Platte St. Pat’s couldn’t get much rhythm going on Saturday as they lost, 43-36, at home to Cozad.

But St. Pat’s coach Nathan Stienike said the absences of Fleck and Kimberling isn’t an excuse. Cozad just outplayed his team.

“Having two starters out hurt but you have to give credit to Cozad,” he said. “They came out and played really aggressive defense. They were quite physical with us and we couldn’t adjust to it. It was just an off night for us.”

Tonja Heirigs made a free throw for the Irish (7-5) to open scoring. But Cozad (4-8) took the lead when Reagan Armagost and Megan Dyer made three-pointers.

The Haymakers remained ahead for most of the first half. St. Pat’s came back to take the lead, 18-17, late in the first half when Heirigs scored on a transition layup that followed threes by herself and Reese Fleck. But Erica Weatherly hit a three on the other end to give the lead back to Cozad. The first half ended with Cara Roberg getting a free throw for St. Pat’s and it was a one-point game at halftime.

Coming out of the locker room, Mae Siegel and Fleck scored baskets to give the Lady Irish a three-point lead. It didn’t last. Dyer knocked down a three to tie the game. Then the Haymakers took the lead on a pair of Armagost free throws. Mallory Applegate then followed with a pair of her own from the charity stripe before Dyer got a layup to make it 29-23.

From there, Cozad led the rest of the way. With 35 seconds left in the game, the Irish pulled to within 39-36 when Heirigs banked in a straightaway three. But the Haymakers closed it out with Makaia Baker and Armagost each converting both of their free throws.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have runs like we normally do,” Stienike said. “Threes weren’t falling. We weren’t getting out in transition. It was just uncharacteristic for us. But the nice thing is that with these girls, they’ve got some character. They’re gonna battle back and become better from it.”

Next, St. Pat’s will play at Mullen (7-5) on Tuesday.

Score by quarters:

Cozad: 10-10-9-14 – 43

St. Pat’s: 5-14-6-11 – 36

Cozad (43)-Karyn Burkholder 4, Reagan Armagost 10, Makaia Baker 6, Megan Dyer 12, Erica Weatherly 3, Mallory Applegate 8

St. Pat’s (36)-Kate Stienike 10, Mae Siegel 6, Cara Roberg 1, Tonja Heirigs 12, Reese Fleck 7

Free throws: C 12-15, SP 4-8; Three-point goals: C 5 (Armagost 2, Dyer 2, Weatherly), SP 6 (Heirigs 3, Stienike 2, Fleck)

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