Panthers prepare for Williamsburg
The Mt. Pleasant boys’ basketball team defeated Clear Creek-Amana in its first district game, advancing to Thursday night’s district final.
The Panthers (17-5) now have a big task ahead of them as they take on Williamsburg. In order to get to the Thursday-night game, the Raiders defeated Mt. Pleasant’s conference rival, Ft. Madison — the only SEC team that has been able to defeat the Panthers in the last six years.
Probable starters for the Raiders (14-8) include 6-foot-9 junior Matt Heitmann, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Bloodhounds, and who leads the team this season with 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
“Not many people have been able to slow him down,” Mt. Pleasant Coach Paul Rundquist said. “We’re going to have our hands full.”
Heitmann is shooting 74.4 percent from the field and is key for Williamsburg under the basket, as he has 88 defensive rebounds this year and 66 offensive rebounds.
“He doesn’t miss much,” Rundquist said. “It will be critical for us to keep a man on him, and if he does shoot, to let him have (only one shot).”
Other starters for the Raiders will be 5-foot-8 sophomore Zach Schlabaugh, 6-foot-3 junior Jacob Donohoe, 6-foot-0 senior Bryan McDonald and 6-foot-4 senior Jordan McMenomy.
McMenomy averages ten points and five rebounds per game, second on the team in both categories.
The Panthers, with five starting seniors, have an advantage in experience. However, according to Rundquist, that’s not always an advantage.
“I’ve seen it go both ways — sometimes, with upperclassmen, they realize it’s their last go and it makes them nervous, while underclassmen feel they have nothing to lose and can play relaxed,” Rundquist said. “I hope that tomorrow, experience overrides inexperience.”
This season, the experienced Panthers have averaged 60.1 points per game and allowed 40.9 points per game — once again, they have a class-leading defense, with fewer points allowed this season than any other 3A team.
The Raiders have scored, on average, 51.8 points per game and allowed 47.9 points per game.
Williamsburg plays strong all game, but the Raiders are a fourth-quarter team — they are persistent, and when the pressure is on, they make their free throws to maintain an advantage in their games.
They average no more than 12.4 points in any of the first three quarters, but average more than 16 points in the final quarter of the game.
Those averages stayed consistent in their district-opening game against Ft. Madison, when they scored 11 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second, 10 in the third and 17 in the fourth quarter to finish the Bloodhounds, 61-50.
“It shows me that they’re a team that doesn’t give up,” Rundquist said. “It also shows me that they control the tempo, which can make their opponents rush.”
A rushed offense is something the Panthers have struggled with this season, and something they’ll have to focus on going into this game against Williamsburg.
“At tournament time, you’ve got to make sure you get a good look,” Rundquist said, noting that he and his staff coach that way all season, so the Panthers are prepared when it comes to the district games.
With a whole season of preparation behind them, the Panthers have one more day of practice before taking on the Raiders.
The tip off is set for 7 p.m. in Fairfield tomorrow night.