The North Platte St. Pat’s Lady Irish went on a tear to build a sizeable lead and held on late to pick up a 41-37 victory against Overton at the McGahan Activities Center.

“It’s a great confidence booster for us but that’s another great opponent we get to play,” St. Pat’s coach Kelsie O’Neill said. “It’s hard to simulate some of these things in practice. Being able to handle pressure in a tight game gave us a great chance to win.”

St. Pat’s took a 14-12 lead midway through the second quarter when Tonja Heirigs made a three-pointer. Heirigs came right back and hit another three to give the Irish (9-5) a five-point lead.

Heirigs scored again on a layup in transition to make it a seven-point game. Then with eight seconds left in the first half, Heirigs drove to the basket and passed it out to Kinsey Kimberling who knocked down the three to make it 22-12 at halftime.

Heirigs wasted no time establishing herself coming out of the locker room, connecting on a runner. Natalie Wood made a free throw to break the drought for Overton (10-3). But Heirigs and Kimberling each made a three to make it 30-13.

The offense from Heirigs was to be expected but the Irish were lifted by the contribution by Kimberling with her two threes in that stretch.

“That was great to see Kinsey have success,” O’Neill said. “She hasn’t been able to do what she’s wanted on offense. It’s a big momentum shift for her, knowing she can do it and those shots are going to fall for her.”

The three-pointers started to dry up after that for the Irish and Overton started to come back. The Eagles went on an 8-0 run and they pulled to within single digits when Wood scored inside. Heirigs made another three. But Ella Luther answered it with her trey from the right side in the final seconds of the third quarter to make it 33-24 going into the fourth quarter.

Overton continued to chip away at the lead in the fourth, taking advantage of Irish turnovers, while getting the ball inside to Wood and JoLee Ryan. With a little under two minutes left, the Eagles pulled to within one possession at 38-35 when Luther made a pair of free throws.

But that was the closest Overton got. Two free throws by Heirigs and one by Reese Fleck were all the Irish needed to hold off the Eagles.

“We knew we had to contain those two girls (Wood and Ryan) and they did a great job,” O’Neill said. “They’re tall and physical and we knew we needed to do a good job on them. They also have really good shooters. Our girls did a good job of executing the gameplan we established.”

St. Pat’s avenged their season-ending loss to Overton in the sub-district finals last year. Only Heirigs and Fleck played in that game a year ago and the win over the Eagles, the eighth straight for the Irish was a milestone for a fairly young team that’s finding their stride.

St. Pat’s will head into the SPVA tournament as the No. 3 seed and they will host Kimball (1-9) on Tuesday.

Score by quarters:

Overton: 8-4-12-13 – 37

St. Pat’s: 9-13-11-8 – 41

Overton (37)-Ella Luther 9, Gracyn Luther 2, Ashlyn Florell 6, JoLee Ryan 9, Natalie Wood 11

St. Pat’s (41)-Kinsey Kimberling 10, Cara Roberg 6, Tonja Heirigs 22, Reese Fleck 1, Jensen Becher 2

Free throws: O 10-16, SP 4-10; Three-point goals: O 1 (E. Luther), SP 7 (Heirigs 4, Kimberling 2, Roberg)

© 2023 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.