Conference tourney time

Jenna Kimberling, left, of St. Pat’s looks to score in the post while being defended by Averie Harold of Sutherland on Monday at McGahan Activities Center in North Platte.

St. Pat’s took its first step toward what’s seemingly become an annual tradition with a 47-19 win over Sutherland in the first round of the SPVA Tournament on Monday.

With Monday’s result, the Lady Irish (10-4) are now one victory away from appearing in what would be their 11th consecutive SPVA title game appearance. Most of those trips have come after the Irish got a first-round bye, meaning they need just one win to advance to the championship. This year, it’s Bridgeport that has the No. 1 seed and bye, while the Irish are the No. 2 seed.

However, Irish head coach Nathan Stienike believes Monday’s game was a good thing, especially considering their game on Friday was postponed, and the semifinals don’t start until Thursday. That would have meant having over a week without a game had the Irish gotten the bye.

"It’s good to get a game under our belt, especially since the Overton game on Friday got postponed," Stienike said. "To sit that many games as young as we are wouldn’t have been a good thing. I’m glad we got to play tonight, and hopefully the girls got some of the jitters out."

Tonja Heirigs led the way for the Irish with a game-high 21 points, Graci Castillo made three 3s for nine points, Kate Stienike had seven and Jocylin Sellers added five in her first game back from injury since Dec. 6, 2019. That game — also against Sutherland — was a 57-17 victory.

On Monday, it was a pretty evenly-played first quarter, with St. Pat’s taking a 10-6 advantage after one. Things changed quickly in the second, as the Irish full-court press began to force the Sailors (1-11) into a litany of turnovers.

During one sequence midway through the second, Heirigs scored eight points in 30 seconds.

First the freshman made a 3, which allowed the Irish to set up their press. Then, on two consecutive possessions, Castillo stole the ball and found Heirigs for a layup — the latter turning into a traditional 3-point play.

Heirigs fittingly ended the quarter with a buzzer-beating layup, giving her 15 of her 21 points in the second quarter alone.

On the night, St. Pat’s connected on seven 3-pointers, five coming from the combination of Heirigs and Castillo.

"We haven’t really been shooting the ball well from the outside lately, so it’s nice to see us knock down a few," Stienike said. "Graci hit a few big ones early and then Tonja had a (couple) too. When we’re hitting shots from the perimeter, it’s a bonus for us, especially with Jocylin back to get offensive rebounds."

The conference tourney now shifts to McDonald-Belton Gymnasium where the

atmosphere gets ramped up considerably.

"It’s a unique atmosphere, a really fun place to play and there are always great crowds," Stienike said. "The girls are just going to have to focus. They’re going to have to fight through the jitters and just focus on what their job is."

St. Pat’s will play the winner of Chase County and Perkins County on Thursday. At press time, that had yet been reported.

Sutherland (1-11) 6 5 4 4 — 19

St. Pat’s (10-4) 10 22 14 1 — 47


Sutherland: Faith Stewart 7, Emma Wareham 4, Kellan Copeland 4, McKenna Bliss 2, Averie Harold 2.

St. Pat’s: Tonja Heirigs 21, Graci Castillo 9, Kate Stienike 7, Jocylin Sellers 5, Julie Slattery 3, Jenna Kimberling 1, Kinsey Skillstad 1.

Hershey 64,

Kimball 55

KIMBALL — Shayda Vaughn broke a school record, making nine 3-pointers for Hershey as the No. 5-seeded Panthers went on the road and beat fourth-seeded Kimball in the first round of the SPVA Tournament.

The victory earns Hershey a semifinal matchup with top-seeded Bridgeport on Thursday at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium in North Platte.

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