North Platte, NE – With an invitation to Sheridan, WY to continue the Region IX tournament on the line the Knights did enough little things right to move on. It doesn’t hurt that they got a little help from McCook on the way.
The Knights knew that this would be a tough game having gone 1-1 against McCook during the season (both teams winning their respective home games) and knowing McCook would be upset after being blown out in North Platte last time they played 91-68. Complicating matters was the Knights starting center Jakub Karwowski would be unavailable after injuring his left leg in the game against Western Nebraska.
The first half started as you would expect it to with both teams coming out and throwing their best game right out of the gate. Neither team would start off with the momentum as they each would keep it close. McCook would call the first time out with 16:44 left on the clock and North Platte in the lead 6-4.
McCook would start to gain a little bit of momentum but North Platte’s talent kept them in the game. Coach O’Connor would take his first time out with 13:40 left in the first half. The Knights had the lead 11-10 and had already gone through 5 lead changes.
McCook would go on a 6-3 run and capitalize on the Knights missing their big man, consistently getting into the paint area. That would draw another time out from North Platte with 12:14 remaining and McCook on top 16-14.
The next three minutes of the game would still belong to McCook, with 9:22 left in the first half the Knights would take yet another time out as they felt the game starting to slip away. McCook had the lead 20-16. It’s at this point coach O’Connor went with a smaller lineup to try to stay in front of the speedy Indian crew.
The smaller lineup would grab back the momentum and go on a 10-5 run of their own prompting a time out from McCook with just under six minutes in the first half. North Platte in the lead 26-25.
For the rest of the first half, the Knights would clamp down defensively and start to impose their will on the game. It was the team we had seen all year long turning defense into easy layups on the other end and getting to the free throw line at will. McCook would miss a layup with about 8 seconds to go. Edgars Kaufmanis would head upcourt and bury a layup of his own at the buzzer. The end of the first half would see the Knights in control 44-37.
All the time outs taken in the first half would be a BIG BIG factor in the game later on (spoiler alert!!).
The second half would mirror the first with the Knights quickly going back to a smaller lineup to counter the speed of the Indians. McCook would take the momentum back from North Platte to start the second half. North Platte would let their guys stay out on the court and fight through the momentum shift until with 8:36 left the Knights would take a time out. McCook would be in the lead at that point 63-62.
Moments later the wheels looked like they would start coming off for McCook, Peanut Cunningham would draw a technical foul after a McCook made basket that would give the Knights a chance for a large point swing. The Knights would capitalize and use that to get things going on their side of the ball.
Neither team would ever lead this game by more than 7 points (North Platte) and with 4:00 on the clock McCook would take a time out down by 3, 72-69. North Platte’s defense was starting to get back into the game and things looked to be going the Knights way at that point.
Fast forward to the last minute of gameplay with the game tied at 82 points. McCook with possession and time ticking down. They would get it across halfcourt and immediately be trapped by the swarming defense of North Platte. McCook would take a time out with 11.8 seconds left on the clock. After conferring with the scorer’s table it was determined that McCook was out of timeouts at this point and would be assessed a technical foul.
Tim Johnson would sink both free throws giving North Platte the lead 84-82. McCook would keep possession of the ball. They would get the look they wanted but miss the layup. Courtney Murrell would snag the rebound and be fouled. He would make 1 of 2 and the Knights would hold on to take the victory 85-82.
The season comes to an end for the McCook Indians with the loss. The Knights earn the right to head to Sheridan WY for the remainder of the Region IX tournament.
The Knights will play Central Wyoming on Thursday, March 7th at 6 pm central time.