UNION STAR, Mo. — The Northeast Nodaway boys basketball team didn’t get off to the start it was hoping for this season with a 48-38 loss last Tuesday against Albany in the season opener. That sent the Bluejays into the Platte Valley Invitational with an 0-1 record and a sixth seed.

Facing third-seeded Stewartsville in Tuesday’s first round in Union Star, the Jays went about changing that narrative. They accomplished that with a 44-37 win to advance to the semifinals.

“Everybody loves an underdog story,” Northeast Nodaway junior Reed McIntyre said. “We don’t think of ourselves as an underdog, but we know everyone else does so we are just going to go out and play our game.”

The Cardinals and the Jays battled back and forth in the opening quarter and Stewartsville went into the second quarter with a 7-6 lead. With the game tied at 11-11, Northeast Nodaway junior Ethan Adwell hit a free throw to give the Jays a lead and McIntyre followed that with a basket to make it 14-11.

Northeast Nodaway never relinquished that lead as it frustrated the Cardinals with a 1-3-1 press defense. The team’s only returning starter from a year ago, senior Spencer Weir, worked at the top of that press and played every minute of the game.

“We just went in and put up a dogfight,” Weir said.

The Bluejays took a 16-13 lead into halftime and started the third quarter with Weir coming up with a steal and layup, then senior Chet Spire hitting a three for his first points of the night.

Stewartsville responded with a 7-0 run to slice the margin to one point. The Jays answered with an 11-0 run to take command. Weir had five points during the run while Dylan Vore, McIntyre and Adwell each added two.

Each team had its highest scoring quarter in the fourth, but Northeast Nodaway was able to hold on for a 44-37 victory.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to get an upset in the first round of the tournament,” Northeast Nodaway coach Rory Jackson said. “The two things you can control are attitude and effort. We did that tonight and got the win.”

Weir finished with a team-high 14 points and Adwell joined him in double-figures with 11. McIntyre finished with eight points while Spire had five, Vore had four and Sherry had two.

The Jays are set for a semifinal showdown with North Nodaway on Wednesday, November 28, at 5:30 p.m. in DeKalb.

NE Nodaway girls 81, Union Star 7

The top-seeded Northeast Nodaway girls made quick work of eighth-seeded Union Star, 81-7, in Tuesday’s first round of the Platte Valley Invitational in Union Star.

The Jays started the game with a 21-0 run, led 10 points from senior Makayla Adwell. After Union Star scored its first points, the Jays answered with an even better run — 41 points — to take a 62-2 lead early in the third quarter.

“They came out focused on both ends,” Northeast Nodaway coach Joyce Stiens said. “The game plan was to put pressure on the ball and we did. … We worked well together.”

Northeast Nodaway used ball pressure from sophomore point guard Paige West to force the Trojans to turn the ball over and trigger the fastbreak. West finished with 16 points.

“It is fun to get the steals and just pressure them,” West said.

Sophomore Madelynn Mattson led the Jays with 17 points. In addition to West’s 10 points, sophomore Alba Vozmediario had eight points and Angela Standiford had seven.

Anne Schieber, Gerry Runde and Blair Stoll each added six points. Ilenia Ricci had four points and Cassy Redden had one to round out the scoring.

“It was a good game for us to get everyone comfortable with the ball,” Stiens said.

The Bluejays advance to the semifinals on Wednesday, November 28, against South Nodaway at 7 p.m. in DeKalb.

“The key tomorrow is just to go out and play like we did tonight,” Stiens said.