Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

MP boys fall on buzzer-beater

Second-ranked Panthers storm back to tie game late but fall at the horn
Jan 17, 2018
Photo by: Andy Krutsinger Jonathan Ita converts on a layup plus the foul in the fourth quarter.

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News


No. 2 Mt. Pleasant and Cedar Rapids Washington played an instant classic at MPCHS on Tuesday night. The Panthers had to battle back to tie the game in the final seconds but the Warriors spiked the win on a mid-range shot at the buzzer by junior forward Michael McCurry.

The Panthers had just tied the game 66-66 on a couple of Brady Sartorius free throws, but the clutch shot by McCurry helped C.R. Washington get away with a two-point win, handing Mt. Pleasant its third loss of the season.

The game got out to a frenetic pace in the first quarter. Mt. Pleasant was able to hold a 19-18 lead after the first period buzzer thanks to a balanced scoring attack. Rhett Zeglen, who started in place of Kieran Kohorst for the second straight game due to a minor injury, stepped up with five points in the first quarter. Regular starters Jordan Magnani and Jonathan Ita each had five points of their own and the Panthers went into the second quarter with a one-point lead.

Mt. Pleasant wasn’t quite in sync in the second period. C.R. Washington took the lead early in the quarter and used a flurry of inside shots to grind out a 36-28 lead, which was the largest halftime deficit of the Panthers’ season.

The Panthers were able to get one-point closer in the third quarter. Four points each from Magnani and Sartorius helped MPCHS keep it close, and the Panthers trailed 52-45 heading into the final eight minutes.

After not having a ton of success in the first three periods, the Mt. Pleasant defense was finally able to force a few Warrior turnovers in the fourth. That, combined with a relentless effort to take the ball to the hoop, put the Panthers in a position to potentially steal the game.

C.R. Washington had the ball leading 62-59 with 2:30 remaining, but the first of a trio of clutch Panther plays got the MPCHS crowd on its feet. Ita poked the ball away from a Warrior around the half-court line, scooped the ball up and took it to the hoop, where he made the layup and drew the foul. His free throw was good and the game was tied 62-62 with 2:18 remaining.

C.R. Washington’s Campbell Mitvalsky responded with a jump shot to give the Warriors a two-point lead, but Magnani was fouled on the next Panther posession and tied the game at 64-64 after making both free throws.

Ita’s fifth foul put Mitvalsky on the line with 41.5 seconds left. The sophomore forward made both and a Panther miss on the other end put Mt. Pleasant’s back against the wall. The Warriors advanced the ball past half court and called a timeout, leading 66-64 with just 24.6 seconds showing on the clock.

The second clutch steal in two minutes happened after the timeout. This time it was Tucker Johnson who came up with the big play, jumping a pass and creating a fast-break opportunity. His layup attempt rolled off but Sartorius skied over a couple of Warriors to get the offensive rebound and was fouled on the follow-up attempt. He sank both and the game was tied 66-66.

“We didn’t want to foul but we wanted to apply some pressure, and if we could get them in a situation where we could trap, that’s what we wanted to do,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Paul Rundquist said about the play. “Tucker made a nice read on the ball, and fortunately Brady was running behind and was able to get the rebound.”

The Panthers needed to make one last stop to force overtime. The Warriors had the ball past half court with five seconds left. McCurry took the inbounds pass and drove towards the free throw line for a pull-up jumper. The defense was there to get a hand up, but McCurry’s shot hit the net just as the buzzer sounded.

“We had the shot contested, so it was a difficult shot,” Rundquist said after the game. “Hats off to that kid for knocking it down. He’s a good ballplayer.”

Sartorius finished with 22 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. He also led the team with three steals and co-led the team with four assists. Magnani had 12 points and four assists, and Ita finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

Zeglen scored seven points on a perfect 2-2 from the field, 1-1 from three-point land and 2-2 from the charity stripe. Maison Ashton scored four points, and the duo of Johnson and Colin Mulford finished with two apiece.

Mt. Pleasant fell to 11-3 with the loss. They’ll put their perfect 5-0 Southeast Conference record on the line on Friday, Jan. 19 when they travel to Keokuk for a game at 7 p.m. The next day, they will take on No. 7 Charles City in a high-profile Class 3A showdown at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.

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