Lance Gifford and Caden Joneson combined for 39 points as the North Platte boys basketball team defeated Class B No. 7 Scottsbluff 64-59 on Friday in North Platte.

“I’m very proud of each and every guy that suits up in a Bulldog uniform,” North Platte coach Jimmie Pack said. “They came out with probably the best first half we’ve had all year. Some guys stepped up and hit some shots and chipped in when maybe our leading scorers were off a little bit. Defensively, there’s not a lot more I can say than they just played a great half of basketball.”

Gifford led with 20 points, and Joneson added 19. Jesse Mauch also contributed 13 in the win.

Rylee Meininger led Scottsbluff with 19 points, Nate Kelley added with 18 and Carter Reisig scored 10.

North Platte played with a lead for most of the game, but in the first quarter, Scottsbluff found ways to score.

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The Bearcats erased a 9-2 start by the Bulldogs to eventually take a 13-11 lead with an 11-2 run. Both teams traded points the rest of the way with Ian Caudy giving North Platte a 17-15 lead going into the second quarter.

The Bulldogs quickly extended their lead to 10 at 25-15 off a Mauch 3, a Landon O’Brien 3 and a Gifford basket. By the end of the quarter, Scottsbluff cut the deficit to four at 31-27, but a Joneson 3 sent North Platte into halftime with a seven-point lead.

Scottsbluff continued to chip away at the lead, but North Platte usually found a way to undo any damage. When the Bearcats pulled within four at 37-33, the Bulldogs scored six of the next eight points to extend their lead to 43-35.

The same thing happened in the fourth quarter. Kearney closed out the third with a 7-1 run, but North Platte opened the fourth with a 7-0 run and a 51-42 lead.

Scottsbluff had one more push left in it and eventually got the deficit to two at 55-53 when Kelley converted on an and-1 opportunity. Both teams traded free throws, but the difference came when the Bulldogs got two points off a Joneson basket, while Scottsbluff just got one after missing a free throw.

From there, Scottsbluff’s coverage fell apart. Gifford had a wide-open layup after the Scottsbluff defense let him break to the basket, then Mauch scored on a 3-on-1 fastbreak after a missed Scottsbluff 3.

Scottsbluff made one more 3 with eight seconds left, but there wasn’t much the Bearcats could do at that point.

“One guy’s not going to win or lose you the game,” Pack said. “As I told them after the game, it takes everybody that we got, and it was very evident tonight.”

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