Panthers play defending champs close, fall by 10
BY ANDY KRUTSINGER
Mt. Pleasant News
CEDAR RAPIDS — Monday night’s season opener in Cedar Rapids was a chance for the Mt. Pleasant boys to show their stuff against one of the top teams in the state.
The Panthers got off to a slow start against defending 3A champion Xavier, but made it a good game late before eventually falling, 55-45.
The Saints started the game off with a 9-0 run, thanks in part to two three-pointers from star point guard Matt Mims.
Xavier stretched the lead to double-digits on multiple occasions in the first quarter, but Mt. Pleasant was able to cut it to 17-10 at the end of the period, thanks in part to four points from Brady Sartorius and a three-pointer by Colin Mulford.
The Saints started the second quarter just like they started the first, with a 9-0 run. This one, however, gave Xavier their biggest lead of the game, at 26-10.
Once again, though, Mt. Pleasant was able to cut into the lead. The Panthers closed the quarter on a 9-5 run to cut it to 31-19 at halftime. Jordan Magnani scored five points during the run, including a three-pointer.
Mt. Pleasant came out of the locker rooms on fire. Mulford hit two from three-point land, Sartorius hit a long two and Tom O’Connor had a layup off an alley-oop to help the Panthers cut it to 33-29.
Then, after a Xavier layup, Mt. Pleasant cut it to a one-possession lead for the first time since the first quarter, when Sartorius found O’Connor for a layup to make it 34-31.
The Saints scored the last four points of the quarter, but Mt. Pleasant was still in striking distance, at 38-31.
The Panthers were able to get good shots in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t get enough shots to fall to get back within one possession. Xavier won the quarter, 11-6, thanks to a couple of outside shots and a dunk by senior post Max Techau.
After the game, Mt. Pleasant coach Paul Rundquist talked about his team’s performance.
“They showed a lot of composure, as far as our kids coming back in that second half and battling like they did,” Rundquist said. “Of our six losses last year, I didn’t feel like we competed like we did tonight.”
Rundquist also talked about the debut of 6’9” O’Connor, the foreign exchange student from Australia.
“He sees over things,” Rundquist said. “He knows how to play. He’ll just continue to get better, and I think he’ll pose a lot of difficulties for teams.”
Mulford finished 4-6 from down town and 2-4 from the free throw line for 14 points to lead the Panthers. He also pulled down five rebounds, and led the team with two assists.
Sartorius scored 12 points and had four assists and four rebounds in the loss. O’Connor had six points, four assists and a team-leading six rebounds.
Magnani had five points, and Kieran Kohorst and Jonathan Ita each had four points and four rebounds. Also seeing time for Mt. Pleasant were Maison Ashton and Brody McGhghy.
The Panthers will now turn their attention to the Southeast Conference, where they’ll try and defend their championship.
Mt. Pleasant hosts Fairfield on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:45 p.m., in the second game of a girl-boy varsity doubleheader. The Panthers will then play at Keokuk and at home against Ft. Madison on the next two Fridays of the month.