The North Platte St. Pat's girls' basketball team broke away from Sutherland in the second half on Thursday en route to a 45-31 win in the semifinals of the South Platte Valley Association tournament at the McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.Neither team could get much of an upper hand on the other in the first half. But the Lady Irish (13-2) got some momentum right before halftime.
After making a three-pointer to tie the game at 17 points, Anna O'Malley scored another bucket with nine seconds left until the break to give St. Pat's a 19-17 lead.
Despite being down by two points going into the locker room, Sutherland coach Jason Gunderson felt good with how the first half turned out.
"It was two good teams going at it," Gunderson said. "I was pleased with how we executed. We had a few key turnovers before the half. But it was a good half."
After halftime, Toni Caudillo hit a three-pointer to continue the run for the Irish and then Bree Saner made it 10 straight with a basket nearly halfway through the third quarter.
"We were really struggling to score in the first half," St. Pat's coach Nathan Stienike said. "Sutherland did a good job with their defense and switching from man to zone. But Toni hit a big three and that was big for our confidence. After that, we felt we could play now."
While it was a big boost for the Lady Irish, giving up a 10-0 run in such a low-scoring game was crushing to the Sailors (9-5).
"That was big (for them)," Gunderson said. "At halftime, we talked about getting the lead back and (when we fell behind further) it was an uphill battle for us."
St. Pat's led 32-25 at the end of the third and a basket inside by Brittany Lawrence to open the fourth made it a nine-point game.
The score hovered around that mark until the Irish expanded the lead some more by making free throws as they were being fouled by Sutherland.
"We kept our composure," Stienike said. "We knew it would be a four-quarter game. I thought we did a good job the whole game of adjusting to Sutherland's defense. In the fourth quarter, they tried to trap us and we did a good job of handling their pressure."
With the win over the Lady Sailors, St. Pat's advances to the SPVA championship game for the fourth consecutive year, where they will play Hershey on Saturday. The Lady Irish won the SPVA tournament in 2011 and 2012 but they lost to Hershey last year.
Sutherland 11 6 8 6 - 31
St. Pat's 10 9 13 13 - 45
Sutherland (31)-Kenzie White 6, Morgan Simpson 4, Kaley Stokey 7, Jalyne Schuster 6, Sam Staggs 8
St. Pat's (45)-Anna O'Malley 16, Amanda McClellen 1, Erin Nozicka 2, Toni Caudillo 4, Bree Saner 7, Brittany Lawrence 15
Free Throws: S 8-12, SP 13-23; Three Point Goals: S 1 (Stokey), SP 2 (O'Malley, Caudillo)