PELLA —Pella Christian dealt the Prairie City-Monroe boys basketball team its first loss of the season last year, and even though the Mustangs returned the favor in the playoffs, that loss still had some sting to it.
Until Thursday night, that is.
In a classic see-saw rivalry game, the Mustangs built up a lead at halftime, then fought off a furious second-half effort to earn a 61-55 over the Class 2A No. 7 Eagles, as well as a little bit of revenge.
"They beat us last year, so we had to come back in their house and take one from them," PCM senior Michael Neff said. "We knew they had the ranking coming in, so right now it's a big win for us, but we have a conference game (tonight) to worry about and we'll need to play even better than we did tonight."
Both teams got off to hot starts as PCM senior Ethan Kain dumped in five quick points, but the Eagles answered. The Mustangs (5-0, 3-5 Heart of Iowa Conference) then fell behind after a few turnovers, but recovered to end the quarter on a 10-3 run thanks in part to Neff, Kain and junior Dillon Bruxvoort. Just like that, PCM was up 21-16.
"The start of the game was huge. It couldn't have been any better for us," Neff said. "You knew they were going to go on a run, but we stayed strong and ended up with the W. That's all that matters right now."
Pella Christian’s eventual run was nothing but a dream in the second quarter as PCM began to stretch its lead out. Although the Eagles had a few answers earlier in the quarter, PCM’s bench rose to the occasion. Freshman Logan Gilman made his presence felt with seven points in the quarter and senior Hunter Van Veen added a late bucket on a backdoor cut to give PCM what felt like a commanding 36-25 lead at the half.
“In a game like this, every point was crucial,” PCM coach Fred Lorensen said with a laugh. “It was good to do that, but you know they’re going to come back after you. It had to be fun to watch. I didn’t like it too much, but the casual fan had to have really enjoyed that.”
The beginning of the second half followed the see-saw trend of the first quarter, but the Eagles began to get hot from the perimeter. Junior Jared Van Wyk and senior Austin Ver Meer did most of that damage, slowly closing in on a now-struggling PCM offense. Ver Meer closed the quarter with six straight points, including a no-look heave at the buzzer that found its way in the hoop and caused an explosion from the home crowd, to put the score at just 46-43 in favor of the Mustangs.
“We knew they were going to do that before we even came over here,” Lorensen said. “(Ver Meer) is really, really good and it’s hard to get backside help on him because they’ve got guys that can shoot all over the place.”
Pella Christian carried its momentum into the fourth quarter and quickly tied the game up at 46-46. The teams then went nearly shot-for-shot for the next few minutes until Eagle freshman Sebastian Baugh hit a 3-pointer to give Pella Christian the lead with less than two minutes left.
Baugh’s heroics didn’t last long though, as Bruxvoort threw on his 3-goggles for the Mustangs’ next possession and drilled a gave PCM a 57-55 lead with 1:21 to go. Perhaps the biggest play of the game came next, as Kain grabbed a deflected ball and took it to the other end for a four-point Mustang lead.
“It was just one of those games where you just had to play,” Lorensen said. “It was hard to run anything because both of our defenses were disruptive, so you just had to go on motion, cuts and passes, and we had some good feeds to our post kids late in the game. I thought our kids did a good job of hanging in there, and when it got down to it, they didn’t panic.”
Moments later, an alley-oop layup from Kain to Neff all but sealed the Mustangs’ victory. PCM forced yet another turnover, which ended with a Pella Christian flagrant foul on Mustang junior Zach Uhlenhopp, and allowed PCM to burn the last few seconds off the clock.
“Overall, I’d say it was a good defensive effort to hold them off in the fourth quarter,” Neff said. “It was huge, and there’s no better feeling than to knock off one of your worst rivals. It silenced their crowd, ours got louder and it shifted the momentum.”
Kain and Bruxvoort led the Mustangs with 15 points each, while Neff joined them in double figured with 14. PCM will go right back into the fire tonight when it travels to Roland-Story for a conference matchup.
PCM 61, Pella Christian 55
PCM — 21 15 10 15 — 61
PC — 16 9 18 12 — 55
PCM — Bruxvoort 15, Kain 15, Neff 14, DeWitte 8, Gilman 7, Van Veen 2
PC — Boot 16, Ver Meer 14, Van Wyk 10, Stursma 8, Baugh 5, Riggen 2