HERSHEY — They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
After a myriad of close early-season losses, Hershey (6-16) is officially on a roll after a 54-43 win over St. Pat’s (16-7) on Thursday.
Thursday’s victory puts an exclamation point on a three-game win streak that began with a 39-point win over Maxwell on Friday, followed by an upset of No. 7 rated Dundy County-Stratton on Saturday, which came on a buzzer beating putback by Cooper White.
“We’ve been close all year and the kids could have thrown in the towel several time, but they just keep fighting,” Hershey head coach Dustin Jorgenson said. “This group just keeps competing. There were times this season where it would have been easy to just go through the motions, but to their credit they always stayed positive and played with great effort.”
One of those close calls was the first meeting between the two teams on Jan. 19 in the first round of the SPVA Tournament in North Platte.
After Hershey raced out to a 6-point halftime lead, St. Pat’s stormed back for a 51-39 win thanks in large part to 16 points and five 3-pointers from junior guard Tyler Heiss.
On Thursday, the Panthers again got out to an early lead, jumping ahead 30-16 at halftime.
Like the first meeting, St. Pat’s went on a second half run and trimmed the Hershey lead to 45-43 when senior guard Bryce Byrn went 2-of-2 at the foul line at the 2:39 mark of the fourth quarter.
Unlike last time, Hershey responded with a run of their own, scoring the final nine points of the game for the win.
“I thought this time our kids played with a lot of poise and stuck with it and I’m proud of the effort level we played with,” Jorgenson said. “There were some points in the game where the kids could have gotten rattled, but they fought through that against a very good, very well coached St. Pat’s team.”
Clay Frels led Hershey with 13 points, Tyler Johnson had 11, Baylor Hellmuth had 10 and Brady Roberts added nine.
Bryce Byrn led the Irish with 13 points and Zac Miller chipped in 11.
Lady Irish 57, Panthers 39
The St. Pat’s girls finished the regular season on a strong note, defeating Hershey 57-39 on Thursday in Hershey.
The Lady Irish (19-3) clung to a one point, 25-24 lead at halftime, but outscored the Panthers (10-12) 32-15 in the second half.
“Hershey had a lot more energy than us in the first half and that showed up in the rebounding department, especially on the offensive glass,” St. Pat’s head coach Nathan Stienike said. “We came out and made two straight 3-pointers in the third quarter and that gave the girls confidence.”
Kaleigh Kummer led St. Pat’s with 15 points, Peyton Irish had 14 and Amanda McClellen added 10.
Taylor Mustion scored a game-high 17 points to lead Hershey.