The North Platte girls' basketball team came through in the clutch on Saturday night to get a 55-54 win over Kearney at the Dawg House.NPHS coach Mark Woodhead said that closing out that game may have been a big step for his team.
"The most important thing is that we showed some poise in the last two minutes," said Woodhead.
Kaitlynn Harvey scored the first two baskets of the game for the Lady Bulldogs (4-7) and then Ashten Hernandez hit a jumper from the top of the key for a 6-0 start.
North Platte had a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the second quarter belonged to Kearney.
The Bearcats (7-6) had a 25-20 lead with just over two minutes left in the second quarter. But the Lady Dawgs were down just 27-25 at halftime.
Both teams battled in the third quarter but NPHS scored the last four points of the third on a three-pointer by Madalynn Doughty and a free throw by Hernandez to lead 40-36 going into the fourth quarter.
Doughty made a jumper from inside the three-point arc nearly a minute into the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs a six-point lead.
But in less than a minute, the Lady Bearcats tied the game at 42-42 after Skyler Snider scored on two-straight possessions.
But Harvey came back with the next five points for North Platte and that made it 47-42.
Once again, Kearney came back and the Bearcats tied the game at 51 when Kelsey Wiemers made a three with just over three minutes left.
It stayed at 51 all until Maggie Bianco made a pair of free throws with 16.7 seconds left in the game to give NPHS the lead again. The shots from the line were the result of a long possession where the Bulldogs held the ball until they got fouled or an easy layup. They got fouled with Abby Ray fouling Bianco 18 feet away from the basket along the baseline.
After the free throws by Bianco, Kearney missed a contested layup. They had an attempt at a putback but it didn't go in. A jump ball was called on the second rebound and with the possession arrow, North Platte got the ball back with 5.4 seconds left.
Hernandez was fouled a second and a half later. The senior made both free throws which proved to be big as Wiemers banked in a three from the buzzer.
"I don't know what we were from the line but it was a big night for us there," Woodhead said. "Those free throws Maggie made were big."
In the past couple of years, the Lady Dawgs lost to Kearney and in each of those two years, that loss deflated North Platte. So Woodhead is hoping that a win over the Bearcats will be a springboard for his team.
"As a team, we played well," said Woodhead. "We hit big shots. It wasn't a perfect game. We had breakdowns defensively. But when we needed a stop other than that three that tied it, we got it. It's a big win because as of late, we've struggled on offense. It was a good win and one we needed to have."
Kearney 11 16 9 18 - 54
North Platte 16 9 15 15 - 55
Kearney (54)-Gretchen Mak 12, Kendra Coslor 3, Kelsey Wiemers 6, Kelsey Stithem 9, Skyler Snider 11, Abby Ray 13
North Platte (55)-Madalynn Doughty 15, Maggie Bianco 4, Kaitlynn Harvey 15, Sally Hengen 3, Kylie Wroot 5, Ashten Hernandez 13
Free Throws: K 9-11, NP 12-14; Three Point Goals: K 7 (Mak 4, Wiemers 2, Coslor), NP 3 (Doughty, Harvey, Hengen)