Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Panthers suffer untimely loss

Early injury, slow pace of play leads to end of Mt. Pleasant’s season
Mar 07, 2018
Photo by: Andy Krutsinger A somber Mt. Pleasant basketball team poses with their state-qualifying trophy after the game.

By Andy Krutsinger,

Mt. Pleasant News

 

DES MOINES — Things simply didn’t go as planned for the Mt. Pleasant boys on Tuesday afternoon. The second-seeded Panthers were upset 59-51 by a Waverly-Shell Rock, ending the season and the high school careers of six seniors that have been the heart of MP basketball in the last four years.

The Go-Hawks punched first when leading scorer Luke Velky hit a layup off the tip to take an early 2-0 lead, but Mt. Pleasant seemingly found their groove right away. The Panthers went on a 10-2 run to grab a six-point lead, 10-4 with 3:28 left in the first quarter.

W-SR didn’t panic, though. While most of Mt. Pleasant’s opponents this year have folded under the Panthers’ pressure defense, the Go-Hawks slowed things down, stopped the bleeding and ended the period down just four points, at 13-9.

Things took a turn for the worst in the beginning of the second quarter. Kieran Kohorst went down on the defensive side of the court, suffering a lower-body injury. He was subbed out and his status looked questionable as he went back towards the tunnel.

Meanwhile on the court, the Go-Hawks continued to take it slow. Now with an even bigger size advantage, W-SR worked to get the ball inside and work it out to their guards, eventually tying it 16-16 on a layup by Velky with 3:13 left in the half.

The Panthers were able to score the next six points of the game, getting two free throws by Jonathan Ita, a jumper from Brady Sartorius and two more free throws by Jordan Magnani. Kohorst subbed back into the game and in one moment, everything seemed to be fine.

Mt. Pleasant was dealt and even bigger blow right before halftime, however. After a steal and a missed jump shot from Magnani, Kohorst dove in and grabbed the offensive rebound, but immediately went back down to the ground, holding the same leg. Jack Seward hit a fast break layup on the other end for W-SR, and Kohorst was subbed out for the last time.

“It changed a lot,” Sartorius said about Kohorst’s injury. “He may not be the biggest or the strongest, but he’s just a bigger body, and he’s wide and has strong arms. Having that post presence helps a lot, and when he went out, we just didn’t have it down there, and just kind of struggled.”

W-SR cut the lead down to three points, at 23-20, with 15 seconds left in the half. Sartorius nearly ended the half with a deep three-pointer, but it was just off and the Go-Hawks took momentum into the halftime break.

The second half would set the tone for the rest of the game. W-SR relentlessly worked the ball inside to Mosai Newsom, their muscular 6’6” center, and that opened up the Go-Hawk guards for a handful of open shots on the outside.

W-SR started the half on a 7-2 run, which ended with a three-pointer by Seward, giving the Go-Hawks a 27-25 lead with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter.

“We’ve been working on it all week in practice,” Newsom said. “Telling me to take my time, finish and if there are people around me, dish it back out.”

Sartorius tied the game back up with a layup but Newsom responded with a put-back layup that put the Go-Hawks in the lead for good.

Rhett Zeglen, who played extended minutes due to the Kohorst injury, cut the lead down to one point, at 34-33, with a corner three-pointer in the final couple of minutes, but another offensive rebound by Newsom led to a couple of free throws, and the Panthers trailed 36-33 after three quarters.

Mt. Pleasant had to scrap to stay in the game in the fourth quarer. W-SR went on a 11-2 run to start the quarter and led 45-35 with 5:10 left. Three Panther starters, Magnani, Colin Mulford and Jonathan Ita, were also getting into foul trouble, which made the mountain even harder to climb.

The Panthers didn’t quit, however. Maison Ashton cut the lead to seven points with a three-pointer and MPCHS was able to scrap back to make it a little tighter in the final three minutes.

Down seven points without the ball, Mulford jumped a passing lane to create a turnover for Sartorius, who was fouled and hit two free throws with 2:30 left, cutting the W-SR lead down to five points, at 52-47. Downing was fouled and went to the line with 2:02, giving the Go-Hawks a 53-47 lead.

Ita was fouled on the other end and hit one of two as well, cutting the lead back to five points. W-SR took a timeout and the Panthers had time to think, down five points with 1:33 remaining.

The next play deflated the Panther faithful. W-SR scored immediately off the inbounds play, hitting Velky under the basket for a wide-open layup. Mt. Pleasant was never able to get the game back to two posessions, and the Go-Hawks completed the only upset of the Class 3A quarterfinals.

After the game, Coach Paul Rundquist credited the Go-Hawks for their speed and discipline, and also looked back at how the Kohorst injury changed the game.

“He came out and then went back in, which was a little boost to us, and went back down again,” Rundquist recalled. “You could just see it in the kids’ eyes. It was definitely deflating for us.”

The game plan for W-SR worked out to a tee. The Go-Hawks held the high-powered Panther offense to zero fastbreak points, outscoring them 14-0 in that category.

“They have a great team, and they’ve got great guys,” said Seward, who led the Go-Hawks with 17 points. “We just practiced all week on the pressure and trying to fight through it, and it helped. We just stayed composed.”

Seward also spoke about how tough it was to keep the tempo at a comfortable pace, and not let the Panther pressure force them into playing fast.

“That’s really hard to do when you’re going that fast, especially (against) a great team like that when they put a lot of pressure on you and are relying on you to turn it over,” Seward said. “You’ve just got to stay focused and slow it down, and that’s not always easy. I think that’s how (their press) gets to people.”

Magnani, one of four four-year starters for Mt. Pleasant, gave credit to W-SR’s ability to effectively eliminate the Panthers’ high-pressure defensive looks.

“They handled it really well,” Magnani said. “We came in thinking we could up the tempo a lot, and they handled it really, really well. Hats off to them.”

Sartorius, who will be playing two years at Kirkwood Community College before re-evaluating his school choices, ended his high school career with a 25-point performance. Magnani scored 10 points to give the Panthers two double-digit scorers.

Ashton finished the day with six points. Zeglen had four. Ita had three pionts and six rebounds, and Kohorst finished with three points.

The game marked the end of a long journey for the core of the Panther team. Six seniors (Sartorius, Magnani, Kohorst, Mulford, Ita and Ashton) played their last game in a Mt. Pleasant uniform.

“They’re very bright kids,” Coach Rundquist said after the game. “They’re going to be successful down the road, and I’m just happy I had an opportunity to coach them.”

Magnani also gave his thoughts about the time he had playing with his fellow seniors and what he’ll miss most.

“Just the group of guys that we played with,” Magnani said. “The group of players we’ve been playing with since third grade. I mean, you can’t ask for much more.”

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