After finishing up the GNAC Tournament with a 1-2 record, the Lady Bulldogs got off to a quick start, but then had to hold on late in downing the Kearney Lady Bearcats in Dawg House on Saturday. North Platte had three score in double figures to outlast the Lady Bearcats 55-54 and move to 4-7 on the season.
Kearney trailed the entire first half of the boy’s game, but took the lead early in the third quarter and held on for the 59-50 win over the Bulldogs. The win avenged a loss in the finals of the GNAC Tournament just one week ago.
The Lady Bulldogs took a 42-36 lead into the final quarter, but when Kelsey Wiemers knocked down a 3 from the right wing with 3 minutes, 8 seconds remaining, the score was tied at 51-all.
The score remained tied, and after a Kearney timeout with 30.6 seconds to go, North Platte’s Maggie Bianco received the ball on the baseline and was fouled. Bianco calmly stepped to the line and hit both of her 1-and-1 attempts to put the Lady Bulldogs up by two with 16.7 seconds remaining. Ashten Hernandez added two free throws with 3.9 seconds to offset a 3 by Wiemers at the buzzer for the win.
“Our plan was to bleed the clock down,” said North Platte coach Mark Woodhead. “We said first available layup or take the last shot.
“We were able to get the ball to Maggie on the baseline and they fouled right away. She probably made two of the bigger free throws in her life.”
Kearney coach Jason Boyd liked his team’s offensive effort.
“We did a good job in the fourth quarter of attacking their zone and getting a lot of good stuff,” Boyd said. “I thought we attacked — the problem was defensively.”
Kaitlynn Harvey helped the Lady Bulldogs get out to a 12-3 lead in quarter one by hitting for six of her 15 points.
“She’s a good shooter, particularly when she sticks her feet,” Woodhead said. “She started off pretty hot tonight.”
But the Lady Bearcats (7-6) found a weapon of their own, as Gretchen Mak hit four 3s in the opening half. One came to close out the first quarter, and two opened a 12-point Lady Bearcat run midway through the second.
Her 3 with 1:03 left in the half brought Kearney to within 27-25 at half.
“We hit some shots and Gretchen hit four 3s in the first half that helped,” Boyd said. “We thought we would see some zone from [North Platte]. We did a good job against the zone, but we struggled to defend the entire game. They shot unbelievable.”
“All week we talked about who their shooters were,” Woodhead said. “Gretchen wants to shoot the 3 before she puts the ball on the floor and penetrates.
“Two things we emphasized this week was to get out on Mak and Wiemers and we talked about not letting any penetration.”
North Platte outscored the Lady Bearcats 15-9 in the third quarter to hold a 40-36 lead heading into the decisive fourth quarter. Madalynn Doughty, Hernandez and Harvey scored five, five and four points respectively in the third quarter to hold off the inside presence of Kearney’s Abby Ray. Ray scored six points in the paint during the quarter.
Woodhead said the Lady Bulldogs changed their offensive philosophy for Kearney.
“Over the last three games we’ve struggled getting the ball into the post,” said Woodhead. “This week we said we were going five out and get a lot of movement. That way we would draw the post out. Ashten hit some big 14 and 15-foot jumpers. That five out really helped us.”
Boyd said he was encouraged by his team’s performance.
“At least we’re to the point it’s going to take that kind of effort to beat us,” said Boyd. “But we gave up too many open shots. North Platte always plays hard.
“We always play them close, but they’re aggressive offensively. We were struggling to defend them and we’ve been a good defensive team. You have to give North Platte credit.”
Kearney (7-6) 11 16 9 18 — 54
North Platte (4-7) 16 9 15 15 — 55
Kearney stats: (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pts) Gretchen Mak 0, 4, 0/0, 12; Kelsey Wiemers 0, 2, 0/0, 6; Claire Sickler 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Kelsey Stithem 3, 1, 3/3, 12; Skyler Snider 5, 0, 3/4, 13; Payton Cudaback 0, 0, 2/2, 2; Abby Ray 3, 0, 1/2, 7.
North Platte stats: Madalynn Doughty 5, 1, 2/2, 15; Maggie Bianco 2, 0, 2/2, 4; Kaitlynn Harvey 6, 1, 0/0, 15; Sally Hengen 0, 1, 0/0, 3; Kylie Wroot 0, 0, 5/6, 5; Ashten Hernandez 5, 0, 3/4, 13.
Kearney avenges GNAC loss
The Kearney Bearcats dropped a 44-28 contest to the Bulldogs in the finals of the GNAC Tournament a week ago, but on Saturday the results would be much different.
Trailing 28-25 at half, the Bearcats (9-4) came back to take a 40-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter. North Platte (7-4) closed to within one at 42-41 with 4:55 remaining in the game, when Drew Callaghan scored two on a put back of an offensive board. But the Bearcats closed the door on the Bulldogs by going on a 7-0 run over the next two minutes for the win.
Ryan Cervantes scored on a fast break and Damien Austen hit on one of two free throws to lead by four. Brady Johnson was 2-of-2 at the line and Cervantes scored on another break to lead 49-41, a lead the Bulldogs could not overcome. The Bearcats were 11-of-13 from the line in the final quarter to squelch any thoughts of a Bulldogs comeback.
“This group takes a lot of pride in being able to close out close games, and doing it from the foul line,” said Kearney coach Scott Steinbrook. “We had very good team ball handling and we had very good team passing. So late in the game, if we’re protecting a lead, we can be tough to come back on. To beat good teams on the road it takes good foul shooting, and we got that from a lot of different guys.”
Shots North Platte was making from the perimeter during the first half let them down in the second.
“We had opportunities for big shots that we normally hit that we didn’t make,” said Bulldogs coach Matt Kaminski. “You need those in tight games.
“I thought we seized control of the game at the start, but could never regain the momentum and rhythm we had to start the game.”
Austen scored a game-high 24 points on the night and continually kept the Bearcats in the game early and helped them keep the lead late. He hit for seven field goals, four from behind the arc and was 6-of-8 from the charity line.
“He’s probably our most veteran player even though he’s a junior,” Steinbrook said. “He kept us in it early on and why we were able to finish late.
“Not just because of the points that he scores, but the assists that he has and he kind of dictated the tempo of the game. It’s nice to have a veteran point guard that makes good decisions late in the game.”
Kearney fell behind early as the Bulldogs led 15-9 after eight minutes. Drew Callaghan scored six of his 21 points in the first quarter for the Bulldogs and was helped out with four from Luke Wright and Jack Kenny nailed a 3 — a start that pleased Kaminski.
“It was about as good of start as we could have had,” Kaminski said. “I thought it was a tremendous start, but I think we just felt a little bit too comfortable after that first quarter and a half. I thought the tempo changed.
“We were getting things and executing in that first quarter and maybe took some quick shots in the second quarter. They were playing their game, getting up and down the court and got some transition buckets.”
Kearney did regroup in the second quarter with the help of two 6-point runs. Austen scored all six in the final run going into half.
“We took a timeout early in the first quarter and talked at the quarter break, that was probably as poor as we could, but we stayed mentally into it,” Steinbrook said.
“We played a hard-fought game against Lincoln Northeast last night and North Platte had all week to prepare for us. That might have showed early on, but we got some great contributions off the bench. It was a good collective effort by everybody on our roster tonight. I was very proud of the effort tonight.
“We felt we settled down offensively in the second quarter. We were getting good shots — we got timely shots. We had guys at the right time and willing to make the extra pass.”
Kaminski said his team will need to regroup for next weeks contest.
“We looked a little bit tired tonight and we have to prepare a little bit better as coaches,” Kaminski said. “Next week Omaha Northwest possesses a different kind of challenge. We have a week to prepare so we’re going to look at this game and prepare for the challenge next week.”
Callaghan led the Bulldogs with 21 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Kearney (9-4) 9 16 15 19 — 59
North Platte (7-4) 15 13 8 14 — 50
Kearney Stats: (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pts) Ben Clark 1, 0, 5/6, 7; Damien Austen 3, 4, 6/8, 24; Jake Weis 2, 0, 1/1, 5; Ryan Cervantes 3, 0, 0/0, 6; Peyton Pocock 0, 1, 0/0, 3; Dakota Schriner 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Brady Jonnson 3, 0, 6/6, 12.
North Platte: Shane Mauch 1, 0, 5/6, 7; Bradey Anderson 3, 0, 2/2, 8; Jack Kenny 1, 3, 0/0, 11; Drew Callaghan 9, 0, 3/6, 21; Luke Wright 4, 0, 0/0, 8.