North Platte St. Pat’s overcame a shaky start on Thursday to beat Hershey 46-37 and sweep the season series with the Lady Panthers.
“This win is huge, especially coming off of our first loss of the year against Cambridge,” St. Pat’s coach Nathan Stienike said. “We had some adversity. We didn’t have a good start and we were down big early. We just kept fighting back and fighting back. It’s a tribute to our five seniors who played their last game here at (the McGahan Activities Center).”
The Lady Irish (21-1) seemed to be still reeling from their loss to Cambridge on Saturday and despite the return of leading scorer, Kaleigh Kummer, they had trouble finding their footing on offense.
Hershey (15-6) scored the first seven points of the game before Hayley Homan scored the first points for St. Pat’s. But the Panthers continued to have their way as Ashlyn Banks scored the next four points on a basket and two made free throws. Then Ashley Hassett scored with time winding down in the first quarter to make it 13-2.
“We just struggled to score,” Stienike said. “Defensively, I thought we were doing pretty good but we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
The Irish brought more pressure on their defense and that allowed them to establish themselves. Calli Groseth scored a pair of baskets and Homan did the same to bring St. Pat’s to within three.
The Lady Panthers continued to lead until 1:27 left in the first half when Rachel Heiss made a pair of free throws in the double bonus as the Lady Irish had a 10-5 foul advantage.
“Our pressure kind of got to them in our full court set and we got some layups,” Stienike said. “We got some energy going and we gradually worked ourselves into the game.”
But Hershey took the lead right back when Emily Barr hit a three-pointer from the left corner and then as time was running out on the first half, Abbi Allberry bowled over Tyra Otzel trying to chase down a loose ball in the front court. The whistle was blown after the buzzer sounded and with the seventh foul called on St. Pat’s, Otzel had a chance to add to the lead, which she did by making both shots from the line.
The second half began with Barr scoring inside and the Panthers had a 24-17 lead.
But it didn’t last. St. Pat’s had another spurt and with 2:39 left in the third, they took the lead at 27-26 on a layup by Kummer. Groseth then made a free throw 10 seconds later to make it a two-point lead. Then Kummer got another layup off a steal before Jocylin Sellers knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 32-26 and that was the score going into the fourth.
“We just kept plugging away,” Stienike said. “The biggest thing was we kept getting defensive rebounds and we got out and ran. We got some layups for Hayley and Kaleigh in transition and that got us our lead.”
The two teams battled it out the rest of the way. But Hershey was ice cold and the only way they could score is by getting a layup or making free throws. Thus with 1:55 left in the game, Kummer buried a three from the left arc that put the Irish up 38-31. The Lady Panthers missed on the other end and Homan nailed a pair of free throws that pretty much put the game away.
“We were getting tired so we just tried to maintain our lead and when they had to foul, we stepped up and made free throws,” Stienike said. “Abbi stepped up and went six-for-six and anytime you shoot free throws that well, you’re going to win a close game.”
Hershey coach Michael Jorgenson said the Irish’s pressure kept his team from being as efficient as it needed to be.
“We had a really good start and we put up some points there, but we let St. Pat’s get back into a rhythm,” Jorgenson said. “They came out strong, defensively, and they caused us to turn over the ball too many times. We tried to run against them and get the ball down the court as fast as possible and a few times, we just threw it too far ahead. That’s tough to overcome when you’re playing a team like St. Pat’s, where every possession is critical. The girls played really hard. Everything they could do, they did. We just had to make more use of our possessions.”
Thursday’s battle between the Lincoln County schools was the last regular season game for both teams as they will begin subdistricts next week. St. Pat’s is the No. 1 seed in the D1-12 subdistrict in Ogallala and they will play Sutherland (3-16) on Tuesday.
Hershey is the No. 2 seed in C1-11 and they will take on Chase County (11-9) on Tuesday.
The finals for both subdistricts will be on Feb. 14.
Score by quarters:
Hershey: 13-9-4-11 – 37
St. Pat’s: 2-15-15-14 – 46
Hershey (37)-Jenna Frels 2, Tyra Otzel 4, Ashlyn Banks 4, Channing Holm 6, Ashley Hassett 9, Shayda Vaughn 5, Emily Barr 7
St. Pat’s (46)-Hayley Homan 10, Calli Groseth 6, Rachel Heiss 4, Kaleigh Kummer 17, Abbi Allberry 6, Jocylin Sellers 3
Free throws: H 11-20, SP 21-29; Three-point goals: H 2 (Vaughn, Barr), SP 3 (Kummer 3)