Gracie Haneborg and Carly Purdy scored 18 each as the North Platte Bulldogs held on to beat Omaha Northwest 49-41 in the first round of the A-6 district in North Platte.
The Bulldogs will host Bellevue East, who beat Millard North, on Thursday with a state tournament appearance on the line.
“The first half, we were able to get out and run. We hardly played any halfcourt offense in the first half,” North Platte coach Tyson Hammond said. “We were able to get out and run. In transition, we were able to get layups, and anytime we were kind of in a halfcourt set, we were able to get a good quick give-and-go cut and we got layups.”
The Bulldogs came out as the more aggressive team and it showed on those layups Hammond mentioned, but for most of the first quarter, Omaha Northwest matched the Bulldogs.
The Huskies scored first, and even held a 6-2 lead early. The Bulldogs tied it on a Haneborg layup, but they continued trading baskets until Abby Orr got a steal and a layup to put North Platte ahead 13-12.
Orr’s basket started a 9-2 run to end the first quarter, capped off by Clancy Brown’s buzzer-beating 3 to make the score 20-14.
“Offensively, we were still trying to play a little too fast sometimes,” Hammond said. “In the first half, we kind of went one way, then defensively, they kind of switched up what they did and we didn’t adjust great to slow them down a bit.”
Those adjustments started to show in the second quarter. North Platte only scored eight in the second, six of which came on the first three baskets to go up 26-14. Later in the quarter, Omaha Northwest’s Ravyne Wallace hit a 3 and Brooklyn Busby made a shot on the inside to bring her team to within eight.
The Bulldogs maintained their lead throughout the third quarter — keeping it at around seven for most of the frame — but the Huskies made one last push to start the fourth.
Wallace hit her fourth 3 of the game for the Huskies to pull her team to within three and force North Platte to call timeout.
“We said it’s not supposed to be easy,” Hammond said. “Games like this aren’t easy. For someone, it’s probably their last game and they played hard all the way to the finish. We watched film of them against Papillion-La Vista earlier this year and they were down 51-15 at half and had it down to six with a minute left. They don’t quit playing.”
The Bulldogs didn’t quit either. Abby Orr found Carly Purdy under the basket for an easy shot, and Haneborg got a steal and layup to push North Platte to a 44-37 lead.
Omaha Northside kept looking for shots to get back into the game, but only found one on a late 3 in the final minute.
“These games aren’t going to be easy,” Hammond said. “Whether it’s Bellevue East or Millard North on Thursday, we’re probably going to have to execute and play one of our best games, if not our best game, of the season to be successful. We just got to come out and we got to play with great effort and great attitude, and whatever happens will happen.”