Hershey pulled away from North Platte St. Pat’s in the second half on Friday to win, 48-40, in the semifinal of the South Platte Valley Association girls’ basketball tournament at the McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.

The Lady Panthers (14-2) will play undefeated Bridgeport (13-0) in the finals on Saturday at 8 p.m. St. Pat’s (10-6) will play Chase County (8-6) for third place.

Hershey took a 9-4 lead midway through the first quarter after Ali Vaughn and Tahlia Steinbeck made back-to-back three-pointers.

In the second quarter, the Panthers extended the lead to double figures at 23-13 with a basket by Dalaney Kohn that followed a pair of Michalee Brownawell free throws.

In the next 30 seconds, St. Pat’s sliced the lead in half. Gabby Swift hit a couple free throws and Tonja Heirigs sank a three. Then, nearly three minutes passed before another point was scored. With time running out in the first half, Swift got the ball in the open court off a Hershey turnover and laid it in to make it 23-20 at halftime.

“They got too many loose balls and second chance opportunities in the first half,” Hershey coach Alex Lowther said. “Offensively, we were forcing too many shots. I felt we spent twice as much time on defense than an offense.”

Reese Fleck scored the first basket of the second half to bring the Irish to within two. Alex Beveridge answered with a basket for Hershey. But St. Pat’s took the lead on baskets by Fleck and Cara Roberg.

On the next possession, though, Beveridge knocked down a three, sparking a rally that ultimately proved to be the difference. Hall scored on a put-back of her own missed shot. Beveridge scored again with a jump shot from 15 feet. Then Steinbeck scored inside to make it 34-26 with a little less than two minutes left in the third quarter. Both teams traded baskets the rest of the period and it remained an eight-point difference going into the fourth.

In the fourth, Hershey went back up by 10 at 42-32 on a Brownawell free throw that followed a three-point play by Hall. The Panthers scored the next five points from the free throw line with Steinbeck making three foul shots and the other two by Hall.

St. Pat’s and Heirigs tried to fight back, ending the game with an 8-2 run, but Hershey held too much of a deficit to overcome.

“We were a lot more patient, offensively,” Lowther said. “We had good looks and that helped us extend the lead. We made some adjustments and the girls reacted well to it.”

Now, Hershey will play the undefeated Bridgeport Bulldogs for the championship. No team has been able to stay with the Bulldogs. But they haven’t seen the Panthers yet.

“Obviously, it was our goal to play them in the finals,” Lowther said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the state and one of the best teams out here. We’ve got to limit our mistakes and handle their pressure, cut down on their streaks. We just need to battle them on the boards and be efficient, offensively.”

Score by quarters:

St. Pat’s: 10-10-8-12 – 40

Hershey: 13-10-13-12 – 48

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