HERSHEY-The North Platte St. Pat's girls' basketball team held off a furious second half rally by Hershey on Saturday to win 54-47 in a battle of two the top ranked teams in Class C2.
"This is a big win for us," said St. Pat's coach Nathan Stienike. "It was nice to play some competition like this. Hershey exposed some weaknesses. It will be fun to play them a couple more times. I love the competition."
Hershey (3-1), the No. 2-ranked team in C2 by the Omaha World-Herald, got out to an 8-3 lead three minutes into the game after a layup by Brooke Frederick.
But the rest of the first half belonged to No. 3-ranked St. Pat's (3-0). The Irish went up 11-10 after Brook Boucher made a three-pointer with two minutes left in the first quarter.
After Jenna Young made a baseline jumper to briefly give Hershey back the lead, Mandy O'Malley hit a three for the Irish to make it 14-12 at the end of the first quarter.
On the opening possession of the second quarter, Samantha Byrn made a three-point play to give St. Pat's a five-point lead and then on the next trip up the floor for the Lady Irish, Boucher made a runner to close out the 8-0 run.
St. Pat's expanded the lead to double figures at 25-15 when Shelby Allberry made a pair of free throws that followed buckets by O'Malley and Brittany Lawrence.
The Irish then stayed in control the rest of the first half and they took a 34-20 lead into the locker room after Lawrence scored inside just before the buzzer.
The 14-point lead was a result of two things. The presence of Lawrence and Allberry inside, and the play of St. Pats' guards in transition.
"We really wanted to attack inside," Stienike said. "We wanted to get it to Brittany in the paint. When we ran our offense, we wanted to pound them with her."
"I was real happy with how we started but I didn't like our transition in the first half," said Hershey coach Jeremy Thomas. "We didn't get back and St. Pat's just killed us in transition."
The Lady Irish led as much as 17 early in the second half before the Panthers started to rally with its full-court press.
With just under three minutes left in the third quarter, Hershey pulled within 41-31 after a layup by Maddie Seamann that followed a Tayler Baker three.
Then Daynlee Miller drained another trey to make it a seven-point game. It became five with 1:15 left in the third after Seamann made a pair of free throws.
St. Pat's scored the last basket of the third with O'Malley driving for a layup to make it 43-36 going into the fourth.
"In the third quarter, we got the 17 point lead down to six and I am proud of how the girls played," Thomas said. "We showed a lot of tenacity on defense and we were sharing the ball on offense.
The Irish pushed the lead back up to 10 in the first minute of the fourth. But the Lady Panthers went on a 9-3 run and pulled to within four.
It was the closest Hershey got. Allberry and Maegan Hiatt traded a couple of free throws and then with a minute and a half left, Allberry hit a jumper just inside the three-point arc to make it 53-47.
St. Pat's then kept the Panthers from scoring the rest of the way to hold on and win over its arch-rival.
"In the last three minutes, we had some shots we didn't make," said Thomas. "I would have liked to have seen us go to the basket more and not shoot so many threes. But I am proud of our effort, overall. St. Pat's played very well and we're looking forward to playing them many times this year."
Although Hershey took it to the Irish in the second half, Stienike said that his team did a good job on the boards, which helped it weather the storm.
"There's no quit in Hershey and we all knew that," he said. "It was a good thing we had such a big lead. They really picked up the pressure on defense. They had the momentum. But the main thing is we kept rebounding."
St. Pat's 14 20 9 11 - 54
Hershey 12 8 16 11 - 47
St. Pat's (54)-Anna O'Malley 3, Mandy O'Malley 9, Samantha Byrn 6, Brook Boucher 7, Shelby Allberry 17, Brittany Lawrence 14
Hershey (47)-Jenna Young 2, Daynlee Miller 11, Brooke Frederick 6, Maegan Hiatt 11, Tayler Baker 3, Maddie Seamann 13
Free Throws: SP 13-22, H 14-22; Three Point Goals: SP 3 (M. O'Malley, Boucher, Allberry), H 3 (Miller 2, Baker)