Panthers use second-half comeback to beat Harlan
BY ANDY KRUTSINGER
Mt. Pleasant News
DES MOINES — A pesky Harlan team held the lead for almost the entire first half on Friday night but an explosive Panther team stormed back for a comeback victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
After trailing by three points at halftime, the Mt. Pleasant boys’ basketball team scored 24 third-quarter points and held on in the fourth for a 70-63 win.
The Panthers struggled to get in a rhythm early against a smart Cyclone team that slowed the game down and built up as much as an eight-point lead in the first half.
Harlan outscored Mt. Pleasant, 12-9 in the first quarter and the two teams scored 18 points apiece in the second, leading to a 30-27 halftime lead.
Harlan’s Shane Chamberlain scored 13 first half points to lead the Cyclones, but Mt. Pleasant point guard Brady Sartorius stuck with him on the scoring charts, putting in 13 points of his own before the break.
“I just don’t feel like we played with a lot of energy in the first half,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Paul Rundquist said. “We were stagnant offensively. I thought we were easy to guard.”
Rundquist said he talked to his team about playing more up-tempo in the second half.
“We talked about playing with energy,” he said. “We’ve got 16 minutes of basketball left in 2016. Let’s make it our best basketball.”
The Panthers were able to amp up the tempo in the third quarter, behind some transition baskets and shots from beyond the arc.
Mt. Pleasant trailed 32-29 early in the period but Colin Mulford knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game and Jonathan Ita gave the Panthers a 35-32 lead with a three-pointer of his own.
Ita’s shot from down town was one of two made three-pointers by him in the quarter. He scored eight points in the period to lead the Panthers.
“I thought Jonathan Ita gave us a huge spark,” Rundquist said after the game. “He made some tough, tough baskets and drew a charge on (Caleb) Rasmussen.”
Sartorius added seven points in the third quarter and Mt. Pleasant had their best period yet, winning it 24-13, to take a 51-43 lead after three periods.
Harlan was able to cut the lead back to two possessions early in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers pulled away later in the period and walked away with a seven-point win.
The win was Mt. Pleasant’s second in 24 hours. The Panthers defeated West Burlington the night before in a game that started at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s game had a start time of 4:30 p.m.
After the game, Sartorius credited a good game plan and a morning of preparation for the win.
“Coach Magnani had a great scouting for us this morning,” he said. “We watched film before we came to Des Moines (and) once we got here, we went through all our stuff at Southeast Polk. That really helped us.”
Sartorius also talked about the difficulties of guarding a very deliberate Harlan team.
“It was hard because they’ve got so many sets,” Sartorius said. “About every time down, they are going to run a set and there are so many options out of all their sets.”
Sartorius led the Panthers with 26 points in the win. He also finished with five assists and five rebounds.
Colin Mulford hit two three-pointers in the game and scored 12 points. Ita and Jordan Magnani scored nine apiece. Magnani co-led the team with five assists.
Tom O’Connor finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Kieran Kohorst had six points and seven rebounds of his own.
The Panthers moved to 5-1 overall this season and head into winter break on a five-game winning streak. Mt. Pleasant will host 4A foe Iowa City High in their next game, on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 7:30 p.m.