Panthers clip CC-A, prepare for Williamsburg
The Mt. Pleasant boys’ basketball team played tough defense to defeat Clear Creek-Amana in their first district tournament game, 57-25, on Monday night.
The win secures the Panthers another district game; they will play Williamsburg at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Fairfield.
Against the Clippers, the Panthers finished with 15 steals and had only four turnovers of their own as they ran away with the postseason win.
“The kids continue to stay focused,” Mt. Pleasant Coach Paul Rundquist said. “Clear Creek-Amana did a nice job of being deliberate with the ball, but we were disciplined defensively, and that carried over to our offense.”
Faith Pope started the Panther offense with a shot in the paint less than 20 seconds into the game, and Logan Mulford scored on a layup to give Mt. Pleasant a 4-0 lead.
Connor Shull stretched that lead to 7-0 when he made a 3-pointer after getting the rebound from a missed Mt. Pleasant free throw.
After the Clippers put their first two points on the board, Ryan Hanna took his turn to score, sinking a pair of free throws and then driving to the basket for another two points just a minute later.
With Mt. Pleasant up 11-2, Rundquist put in a few players off the bench — including Dalton Conrad, who had been sidelined since going down with a knee injury in a game at Fairfield on Jan. 11.
Conrad was welcomed back to the floor by cheers from the crowd and chants from the student section.
He was in and out throughout the game, getting more confident as the night went on.
“It will take him a little time to trust that leg,” Rundquist said. “The most he plays, the more confident he’ll become. We hope to give him the opportunity to play a few more ball games.”
After his first game back — a week earlier than originally expected — Conrad said the knee wasn’t bothering him.
“It feels good at the moment,” Conrad said just after the win. “And it feels amazing to be back on the court. I didn’t like sitting on the bench too much.”
While he wasn’t quite comfortable enough to dive on the ground for the ball yet, Conrad did note that his teammates were especially scrappy on the floor against the Clippers.
“We got a lot of loose balls tonight; we haven’t been too good at that in the past, and we’ve been working on it,” Conrad said.
The Panthers went into the second quarter with a four-point lead over Clear Creek-Amana, 13-9. They stretched that lead to nine points before the break with help from 3-pointers by Mulford and Trey Magnani, and went into halftime leading 24-15.
Pope opened the third quarter with an alley-oop layup, assisted by Hanna, and the Panthers went on to post 16 points in the eight minutes after the half.
The defense stayed consistent, allowing the Clippers only eight points in those eight minutes.
“The key to the game was playing defense,” Shull said. “We worked on it all week.”
The visitors were shut down in the final quarter, scoring only two points.
The Panthers, meanwhile, had their highest-scoring quarter of the game. Brant Shelman sank two 3-pointers in as many minutes, Pope dunked and Shull scored on a putback as the Panthers ran away with the win.
Pope paced Mt. Pleasant with 14 points, and Hanna added nine points. Shull and Magnani each chipped in eight points.
Pope also led the team in rebounding with seven boards; Cameron Frank pulled down six.
Frank dished a team-high five assists, while Mulford and Hanna had four assists each. Hanna blocked three shots for the Panthers, while Mulford and Pope each had three steals. Eight different Panthers had at least one theft.
Clear Creek-Amana finishes its season with a record of 4-18.
The Panthers improve to 17-5 on the year and advance to the next game in the district tournament.
Mt. Pleasant will not have the opportunity to play in a rubber match against Ft. Madison, as the Bloodhounds lost their district-opening game to Williamsburg on Monday night, 61-50.
On the other side of the substate bracket, Solon defeated Washington by a score of 58-40, and Keokuk beat Fairfield, 65-40.
Solon will take on Keokuk in a game at Washington on Thursday at 7 p.m. while the Panthers play Williamsburg.
The winners of the Thursday night games will play each other in the Substate 5 championship, which will be on Monday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.
In their next game, just like their last one, the Panthers will keep their focus on their defense.
“We’ve got to play defense,” Shull said. “We haven’t played Williamsburg, but we expect a lot from them.”
The Raiders are now 14-8 on the season.
“Williamsburg is very well coached,” Rundquist said. “We expect them to throw a lot of different things at us.”
And they know they’ll have to be ready.
“This time of the year, there’s not anybody playing that’s of poor quality,” Rundquist said. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to play another game.”
MT. PLEASANT (57)
Logan Mulford 2 0-0 5, Connor Shull 3 0-0 8, Trey Magnani 3 1-2 8, Cameron Frank 3 1-2 7, Brant Shelman 2 0-0 6, Ryan Hanna 2 5-6 9, Faith Pope 7 0-2 14.
3-point goals: Shull 2, Shelman 2, Mulford.