North Platte St. Pat's coach Nathan Stienike knows what to expect Thursday when the Lady Irish play Sutherland for a fourth time this season in the Class D1 state tournament.The tip off is at 9 a.m. at the Lincoln North Star gymnasium.
“It is really tough to play a quality team three or four times,” Stienike said. "Every point you score, you have to work extremely hard for it. We know Sutherland’s offensive sets, just like they know ours. I think it will be low-scoring defensive battle.”
“It is great for our conference knowing one team will be in the semifinals with an opportunity to play for a state title," Stienike added.
It will be the third straight trip to state for St. Pat's and the third trip in four years for Sutherland.
At the state tournament last year, St. Pat's played Hershey for a fifth time.
But this year, St. Pats' perspective is more like what Hershey's a year ago. Both St. Pat's and Hershey were in the same sub-district and the Lady Irish won the matchup. Hershey qualified for state via a wild card. Then, the Panthers promplty defeated the Irish in the first round.
Just like Hershey a year ago, St. Pat's will look for some redemption and revenge after losing to Sutherland in sub-districts.
The Lady Irish are happy to be going. Stienike said that even though it wasn't certain as of they would get the wild card berth, they still practiced and prepared.
"After we lost, we practiced all last week," Stienike said. "It felt like preseason practice (with) no games in near sight. We could fine tune on both ends of the floor. Our practices were excellent."
In the loss to Sutherland at sub-districts, the Lady Sailors surprised the Irish and pulled away in the second half. They dared St. Pat's to beat them from the outside with a 2-3 zone defense and the Lady Irish couldn't make the shots they needed.
Stienike credited Sutherland for playing with a sense of urgency that night.
"I thought Sutherland played excellent on both ends of the floor with lots of energy,” he said. “We flat out got outplayed.”
The Sailors’ balance and versatility concerns Stienike. With the starting five of Sam Staggs, Jalyne Schuster, Kaley Stokey, Kenzie White and Morgan Simpson, Sutherland brings a lot of elements.
“Sutherland's strength is the play of their three guards -- Schuster, Staggs, and Stokey,” Stienike said. "All three have been in big games before, hit big shots, and play hard all the time. They are a tough to defend, can drive or knock down a three.”
St. Pat's will try to use its height advantage with 6-foot-3 senior Brittany Lawrence, who scored 22 of the Irish's 28 points in that loss to Sutherland.
But if the Lady Irish are to beat the Sailors for a third time this season, they will likely need someone else to step up, too.