MP suffers narrow home loss to Centerville
When the buzzer sounded at the Mt. Pleasant Community High School gym on Tuesday night, the Panther boys’ basketball players felt something that they’ve never experienced before — the sting of defeat on their home court.
Visiting Centerville claimed a win, 53-51, over Class 3A No. 9 Mt. Pleasant (7-3 overall, 4-0 SEC) in the non-conference game.
Centerville upped its season record to 8-1 with the win — the Big Reds have won their last eight straight after a season-opening loss to Ft. Madison.
The Panthers had an even bigger win streak going — before last night, the Mt. Pleasant boys’ varsity basketball team hadn’t lost a game on its home court since Feb. 17, 2009, when they dropped a 76-70 decision to Marion.
“It’s been a long time,” Mt. Pleasant Coach Paul Rundquist said.
Throughout last night’s game, the Panthers struggled to hit their shots.
“The ball wasn’t going in the basket — that started it,” Rundquist said. “I kept waiting for us to get in rhythm....”
But it didn’t happen.
The first half of the contest was a battle, as the lead bounced back and forth between the teams. But it was Centerville that had the upper hand going into the locker room: the Big Reds were leading Mt. Pleasant, 27-23, at halftime.
“We were getting great looks, we just couldn’t knock them down,” Rundquist said. “That got us down a little bit. The kids were getting frustrated, understandably, but we’ve got to realize that if shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to do other things to be productive members of the team.”
In the second half, Mt. Pleasant scored the first four points on a Faith Pope layup and a Ryan Hanna layup, both assisted by Cameron Frank.
That tied the score at 27, but the Panthers couldn’t get ahead.
Centerville’s Payton Busch hit a free throw, and then Michael Starcevich sank a shot from beyond the arc to put the Big Reds up by four.
Centerville would lead the rest of the game. They stretched that lead to as many as eight points on two occasions.
The Panthers did make a late push: they were down 51-43 with just over a minute to play when they went on a six-point run — Brant Shelman and Frank each made a three-pointer — to come within two, 51-49, with 18 seconds left.
Centerville made a free throw with 14 seconds left, Frank made two free throws with nine seconds left, and then Centerville made another free throw to give the Big Reds a 53-51 lead with eight seconds on the clock.
The Panthers got the rebound when Centerville missed its second free throw and took the ball down the court — but this time, they couldn’t get a good look.
Their last-second heave from well beyond the three-point line was just off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
On the night, both Frank and Pope finished with a double-double. They put up 15 points apiece, while Pope grabbed 13 rebounds and Frank pulled down 10.
Pope also had seven blocks. Logan Mulford and Frank each had four assists. As a team, the Panthers had only two steals: one each from Mulford and Pope.
Mt. Pleasant’s final score was more than 10 points below its season average, and the Panthers shot only 35.1 percent on the night. They were four-for-20 (20 percent) from three-point range and 16-for-37 (43.2 percent) from inside the arc. They were seven-for-20 (35 percent) from the free throw line.
Against another opponent, the Panthers might have been able to get away with a win, despite scoring less than usual.
But not against Centerville.
“They did a nice job,” Rundquist said. “They have a lot of experience back — four starters returned.”
The Big Reds’ zone defense, with 6-foot-8 Logan Dabney under the basket, strained the Panthers’ already struggling offense.
“He’s a big guy with long arms, and he moves well,” Rundquist said of Dabney.
Meanwhile, Centerville didn’t seem to have much trouble penetrating the Mt. Pleasant defense, taking advantage of a number of open shots under the basket.
“They (the Big Reds) were definitely deserving of the win tonight,” Rundquist said. “I’m not going to fault the kids’ effort, but we just didn’t play well enough to beat a good team.”
The Panthers play at Fairfield on Friday and at Muscatine next Tuesday, but they will get a chance to start a new home-game win streak on Friday, Jan. 18, when they host SEC opponent Keokuk.
MT. PLEASANT (51)
Logan Mulford 1 0-0 3, Dalton Conrad 1 0-0 3, Cameron Frank 6 2-6 15, Brant Shelman 2 1-2 6, Ryan Hanna 4 1-3 9, Faith Pope 6 3-7 15.
3-point goals: Mulford, Conrad, Frank, Shelman.