Unfortunately for the Bison girls, they couldn't pull off an encore effort the following night at Holdrege.
McCook ran away from Class A North Platte for a 65-51 victory Friday evening at the Senior High School gym. The Bison fell behind and couldn't catch up Saturday, Dec. 15, in a 44-36 loss at Holdrege.
Bison girls head coach Jeff Ellis disagreed when asked if perhaps his team was spent physically Saturday after a rugged battle with the Bulldogs one night before.
"I don't think we ran out of gas," Ellis said. "I just think we were maybe up against a team that their aggressive play and their pressure maybe just got into our minds a little bit. We just weren't mentally strong enough at the end to overcome some of that.
"I thought our conditioning really looked OK in the fourth quarter. I just think the pressure bogged us down a little bit mentally.
"Mainly, I think we got wore down mentally just because we were constantly under pressure. Not necessarily full-court pressure -- I liked how we handled that. We did great handling the basketball. But in the half-court they (Holdrege) were all over us, they played an aggressive style of half-court defense. It allowed our attack out of our sets to be a lot further away from the basket than normal because of that pressure. So I think that maybe just wore on us a little bit, and maybe mentally we just weren't as sharp down the stretch."
The Bison girls led 17-13 midway through the second quarter Saturday on Molly Sughroue's shot from the wing. But McCook didn't score again the rest of the half, as Holdrege took a 19-17 lead to the locker room at halftime.
McCOOK WAS within 27-25 midway through the third period after a pair of free throws by Brooklynn Trew. Holdrege closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 36-2 lead into the final period.
The Bison girls would not fold. A shot by Madison Chitwood and a free throw by Megan Ruppert pulled McCook within 42-36 with 1:20 remaining. The Bison had an offensive foul and traveling call in the final minute, and Holdrege made a pair of free throws to help ice the win.
Trew had 9 points and Chitwood 8 to lead McCook Saturday.
Rachel Jelden and free throws were a big key for Holdrege. Jelden, a 6-0 junior, scored 19 points, and she made several long outlet passes off defensive rebounds that led to easy baskets for the Dusters.
The hosts made 13 of 16 free throws, compared to just 6 of 10 for McCook.
Holdrege had "Pink Out Night" Saturday to help in the fight against breast cancer. Both teams and many fans in attendance wore pink to mark the special occasion. The varsity girls game was played after the McCook-Holdrege boys varsity contest Saturday.
McCOOK FANS might have to dig deep in the history books to find the last time North Platte had lost to the McCook girls.
McCook pulled away in the second half after trailing 28-27 at intermission. The Bison used an 8-0 spurt to help build a 42-35 advantage after three quarters.
The Bulldogs trailed 48-44 with just over three minutes left, but McCook scored eight unanswered points in the next two minutes to take control. Brooklynn Trew and Rachel Goltl each hit a field goal and a pair of free throws in the Bison spree.
North Platte cut the McCook lead to 58-47 with 1:07 remaining. But the Bison girls hit 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to help preserve the win.
Trew scored 20 points, Golth had 13 and Ruppert 11 for the Bison. North Platte's 6-0 center Ashten Hernandez tallied 18 points.
Coach Ellis said his team played outstanding Friday, especially in the second half when McCook outscored North Platte 38-23.
"We just took off in the third and fourth quarter and beat down a pretty good basketball team, on our home court. That was real pleasing to see," Ellis said.
THE BISON head coach offered a challenge to his team after Saturday's loss. He wants to see how his team will respond to that tough loss, with a pair of games this week before the Christmas holiday. McCook travels to Gothenburg Tuesday before entertaining Phillipsburg, Kan. Thursday.
Ellis said Holdrege did a good job applying pressure to Trew, McCook's point guard. He is looking for his other senior guards in particular and reserves off the bench to take control if that situation arises down the road.
"Not that some of those other guards weren't playing with the right mindset -- they were playing intense, playing hard," Ellis said. "But they've got to be comfortable with taking over and leading the team when our leader is getting double-teamed and bullied a little bit.
"I challenged my other seniors, the guards in particular, that 'Hey, that's probably going to happen again,' our guards have to step their game up, and they will. That's what I'm excited about, because I know they will because they are quality basketball players."
ELLIS SAID his team played well Saturday, and the Bison have to put the loss behind them and be ready to go again this week.
"Yeah, we lost, and it's our first loss of the season," he said. "Maybe it sticks a little bit of a dagger in the emotional high that we've been on. But it can't deflate us. We have to pull the dagger out and tape up the wound a little bit from (Saturday) and forget about it and be ready to go two times this week, because those are going to be big ones for us."
THE BISON should also draw a top seed in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament scheduled Dec. 27-29 in Columbus. Seeds for the GNAC Tourmament should be announced early this week.