To get there, the Knights (12-5, 3-6 in Region IX) played one of their best halves of the season in the first half against Central (12-9) en route to a dominating 86-52 win.
After the game, O’Connor said he hadn’t thought much about the milestone.
On Friday, North Platte Community College outscored Central 41-16 in the first half, going on a 25-3 run at one point. The Knights successfully cut off Central’s dribble penetration in the first half and also were able to contest the Raiders 3-pointers, as Central finished the half 1-for-11 from the behind the arc.
O’Connor also pointed to the rebound margin, which North Platte won 25-11 in the first half.
“Other than maybe the first two, three, four possessions, we got going pretty good there and started playing with a little more intensity,” O’Connor said. “Those things combined were big factors.”
Diontae Champion led all scorers with 22, while also grabbing five rebounds. The Knights have gotten solid contributions out of three bench players in the last two games — Godfrey Rolle, who scored 20 on Friday, Buom Dubuol and David Niklasson. Early in the season, O’Connor said it would be important to find some role players off the bench to spell the starting five.
“That’s been the biggest thing, I think. We’ve had some steady play from some of the guys most of the year, but starting in the second half of the McCook game, David Niklasson got going,” O’Connor said. “You had Buom doing the same thing, so he could spell Mike [Amius]. With Victor Lewis being hurt, Godfrey has come in and started the past two games and given us solid minutes.”
Samuel Kearns also added 12 on Friday.
Logan Fleming led Central with 19, as the Raiders were missing 6-foot-9 center Ruben Fuamba who averages 12.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
The big win over Central, coupled with a win over rival McCook on Wednesday may give the Knights a little momentum into a tough Region IX matchup on Tuesday at Northeastern (Colo.).
“It started in the second half on Wednesday down in McCook. We played smarter and gave ourself the opportunity on every possession to get something done at both ends of the floor,” he said. “The trick is, we have a tough opponent coming up Tuesday. It doesn’t get an easier, as they say.”
Thomesha Wilson stole the ball with 28 seconds left and sunk one of her two free throws to ice a 60-58 victory for the Lady Knights (6-12, 1-1 in Region IX) over Central (8-10, 0-1) on Friday.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for North Platte and is crucial because it gives the Lady Knights a shot at the No. 1 seed in the Region IX Tournament in March.
“We just have to beat them again and beat Southeast by more than two to get the No. 1 seed,” head coach Richard Thurin said. “It will be tough going there, though.”
The Knights raced to a 18-9 lead in the first quarter and led 32-24 at the halftime break. Thurin said his team did a good job of getting the ball down low and not turning it over to get the lead.
“A win is a win. I’ll take one now, I don’t care how. It’s been a long drought,” he said.
The Knights extended that lead to as much as 16 midway through the third quarter before Central began to chip away.
The Lady Raiders outscored North Platte 18-9 in the fourth quarter, but Wilson’s late steal helped seal the win for the Knights.
“We still need to work on the boards,” Thurin said. “It almost cost us the game.”
Wilson led the Knights with 13 points and Jessica Lovitt added 10 more. Lovitt also hauled in nine rebounds to lead the team on the boards. Central forward Payton Blanke led all scorers with 18.
The Lady Knights head onto the road for a Tuesday showdown with Northeastern (Colo.) that starts at 6:30 p.m.