North Platte St. Pat's got off to a running start on Thursday and the Irish rode the momentum from it to a 53-39 win over Perkins County in the South Platte Valley Association tournament semifinals at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.St. Pat's (12-2) will play Imperial (6-9) for the SPVA title on Saturday.
The Irish took an 8-2 lead at just under five minutes left in the first quarter when Sean Keenan scored on an alley-oop layup from Joe O'Malley.
A minute later, Joseph Clinch got a layup off of an assist from Keenan in the fast break. Clinch scored the following bucket and then Alex Harms got a putback of a Keenan miss to end the 10-point run that gave St. Pat's a 14-2 lead.
It was 18-7 at the end of the first quarter with Andrew O'Neill finishing it off in style for the Irish with a basket at the buzzer.
"They guys were able to get out in the open court," said St. Pat's coach Bill O'Malley. "Our defense was good and we did a good job of rebounding."
Perkins County (7-8) adjusted in the second quarter. The Plainsmen forced the Irish to score in the half-court instead of transition and their half-court defense was good enough that St. Pat's was unable to extend the lead much further.
It was 28-16 at halftime and 42-28 at the end of the third quarter.
"I thought on defense, they got into the lane and we had trouble with that," O'Malley said. "We also need to shoot better at the free throw line."
The good news for St. Pat's was that Perkins County wasn't able to string together a run of baskets. But in the fourth quarter, it appeared the Plainsmen were about to do that when they cut the lead to 46-36 when Alex Johnston scored inside with just under five minutes left in the game.
But that was the closest Perkins County got as the Irish got a couple of timely baskets to hold off the Plainsmen.
"The fast start was really key because they stayed with us," said O'Malley. "They played as good, if not better, than us the rest of the game."
On Saturday, St. Pat's will be aiming for their second straight SPVA tournament championship and they will face Imperial, the one team in the conference they haven't played yet.
Perkins County 7 9 12 11 - 39
St. Pat's 18 10 14 11 - 53
Perkins County (39)-Elliot Carlson 9, Quinton Hite 6, Tim Johnson 1, Jake Sexson 2, Alex Johnston 10, Caleb Breazeale 13, Blake Poppe 8
St. Pat's (53)-Sean Keenan 14, Joe O'Malley 4, Andrew O'Neill 2, Joseph Clinch 13, Alex Harms 14, Mark Mayfield 6
Free Throws: PC 5-9, SP 9-19; Three Point Goals: PC 2 (Carlson 2), SP 2 (Keenan 2)