The North Platte St. Pat’s boys’ basketball team hung on tooth and nail on Saturday night to win its third consecutive SPVA tournament title by defeating Imperial 47-45 at North Platte Community College.
“Both defense played well,” St. Pat’s coach Bill O’Malley. “Their defense made it difficult to play well.”
Imperial led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter and the Longhorns (11-5) extended their lead by six when Travis Luhrs hit a mid-range jumper to open the scoring in the second.
But the Irish (14-1), who had struggled with Imperials 1-3-1 zone, started to come alive and they took a 19-18 lead halfway through the second on an Alex Harms basket that followed a three-point play by Andrew O’Neill.
O’Neill then followed with a turnaround jumper from eight-feet out to make it a three-point lead with 2:36 left in the first half. The junior forward, who led St. Pat’s with 12 points, came up big again in the last minute of the half with another three-point play that made it 26-20.
Justus Wallin scored the last point of the first half for Imperial on a made free throw with 23 seconds left and the Irish led by five at halftime.
O’Malley said that his team got the lead by driving to the hoop and passing the ball to the open man.
“We had that one stretch in the second quarter where we were successful and that was probably the difference in the game,” he said.
For the entire second half, St. Pat’s battled to hold off the charging Longhorns led by Jeffrey Dickey, the game‘s high-scorer with 17 points. Imperial got to one point several times in the fourth quarter. But the Irish never relinquished the lead.
The game came down to Dickey’s desperation heave at the buzzer from 40 feet. But it hit the backboard wide left of the basket.
"I thought we took good care of the ball," O'Malley said. "We didn't hit free throws very well. But if you turn it over, you sometimes don't get a chance to get back on defense so that was big."
In a tournament that appeared going in to be a showcase for SPVA newcomer, Kimball, and its 6-foot-9 Division I signee Mike Daum, it was two more balanced squads who ended up playing for the title in St. Pat’s and Imperial, who knocked off Kimball in the semifinals on Friday.
Behind the 12 from O’Neill, eight each from Harms, Mark Mayfield and Bryce Byrn, as well as seven off the bench from Cory Clinch, the Irish showed great chemistry and cohesiveness as they won another SPVA championship.
“We thought from players one through seven we got great contributions,” O'Malley said. “Everyone did what they needed to for us to win.”
Imperial 14 7 13 11 - 45
St. Pat's 10 16 12 9 - 47
Imperial (45)-Travis Luhrs 5, Ryan Moline 3, Jeffrey Dickey 17, Kelton Fisher 6, Justus Wallin 12, Trey Milner 2
St. Pat's (47)-Bryce Byrn 8, Drew McClellen 4, Cory Clinch 7, Andrew O'Neill 12, Alex Harms 8, Mark Mayfield 8
Free Throws: I 7-10, SP 15-25; Three Point Goals: I 4 (Dickey 2, Luhrs, Moline), SP 2 (Byrn 2)