HERSHEY-After losing the first two games to Hershey earlier this season, the North Platte St. Pat's girls' basketball team won the third and final meeting between the two teams by a score of 28-22 on Thursday.
The win in the last regular season game of the season for the Lady Irish marked the fourth straight year they have come into Hershey and beaten the Panthers.
"This is huge," St. Pat's coach Nathan Stienike said. "It gives us great momentum going into subdistricts. Anytime you can get a win at Hershey, you're doing something right because they are such a well-coached team. It always seems like whenever we play Hershey, we're more relaxed here because we don't have the pressure of the home crowd."
St. Pat's (19-3) led 8-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Irish then stretched the lead when Anna O'Malley scored the first two buckets of the second quarter. A free throw made by Bree Saner just over two minutes into the second gave the Lady Irish a 13-7 lead.
The speed of St. Pat's helped them take control of the game by beating the Panthers down the floor to get better shots, Stienike said.
"We tried to push the tempo more with our transition game," he said. "We got the rebound and we pushed the ball out."
The Irish also won the battle of the boards in the first half.
"We did a great job rebounding," Stienike said. "Anytime you can hold Hershey to just one shot on offense, it's big."
Hershey (20-3) had opportunities to get baskets to keep them within reach. But on shots the Panthers normally make, the iron was unkind and the ball rolled out and into the hands of a player in green.
"Honestly, that's what started the whole thing," Lady Panther coach Jeremy Thomas said. "We missed six layups in the first half and that affected us. Give credit to St. Pat's, their defense was so strong. It rattled us and we couldn't get any momentum."
The Lady Irish led 16-9 at halftime. In the second half, it felt inevitable that Hershey would make a run to get back into it. But it never happened.'
If anything, the gap grew wider. St. Pat's took a 24-15 lead with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter after baskets by Toni Caudillo and O'Malley. Both teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter and it was still a nine-point game going into the fourth.
With five minutes left in the game, Saner made a free throw to score the first point of the fourth quarter and the Irish lead reached its peak at 27-17.
In a series where neither team has scored more than 40 points on each other this season, a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter was essentially insurmountable and the Lady Irish held on to end its three game losing streak against Hershey that dates back to last year's state tournament.
"In the first two times, Hershey had all the momentum going into the second half," Stienike said. "So it was nice that the girls matched their intensity tonight."
St. Pat's 8 8 10 2 - 28
Hershey 7 2 8 5 - 22
St. Pat's (28)-Anna O'Malley 12, Toni Caudillo 8, Bree Saner 6, Brittany Lawrence 2
Hershey (22)-Taylor Mustion 5, Ryce Troyer 2, Brooke Munsen 3, Maegan Hiatt 10, Maddie Seamann 2
Free Throws: SP 5-10, H 1-5; Three Point Goals: SP 1 (Caudillo), H 1 (Mustion)