BAXTER — The Prairie City-Monroe boys basketball team has played its share of close games this year. The Collins-Maxwell-Baxter boys basketball likes making games close.
On Friday night, both of those factors came together for an entertaining night of hoops.
Despite a see-saw battle all game, the Mustangs (16-1, 13-1 Heart of Iowa Conference) had runs at the end of each half to distance themselves from the Raiders (4-14, 3-12), who took yet another close loss with a 67-57 final.
"We knew it was going to be tough coming in," said PCM senior Alex DeWitte, who earned a double-double. "The first time we had a 21-0 run on them, but we knew that wouldn't happen twice. We got a challenge, and we're happy to come out of here with a win."
It was plain to see from the beginning that neither team would have an easy night. Seven players between the two teams scored in the first quarter, which ended with PCM leading 17-13. It also established the battles in the paint and how neither team could hold the momentum for very long.
Although the Mustangs already found themselves in foul trouble to start the second quarter, DeWitte and fellow senior Ethan Kain did their parts to keep CMB at an arm’s length. DeWitte scored down low, at the free-throw line and behind the arch in the quarter, adding 10 points to a PCM run that resulted in a 34-27 halftime lead.
“We got into some foul trouble in the first half, and then we had some guys on the floor that aren’t used to playing together,” PCM coach Fred Lorensen said. “But they also got us that run at the end of the half that turned out to be really, really important.”
CMB made its counter-attack at the beginning of the third thanks to some aggressive play at the point by sophomore Seth Balke and some clutch plays by senior Aaron Haupert. A quick 6-0 Raider run put them back within three, but PCM maintained a slim lead that was down to just 43-42 heading into the final frame.
“We just had a regrouping. There were too many second shots and they had a little run in the second quarter, so we had to clean it up,” CMB coach Gary Plunkett said. “We attacked the ball, and I thought Balke did a great job doing that to start our run back.”
The fourth quarter proved to be the wildest of the game, as Balke hit a pair of free throws to give CMB a lead at the 6:37 mark. PCM quickly took it back, however, as DeWitte and senior Michael Neff both scored to put the Mustangs up three again.
Following a timeout near the 4:30 mark with CMB down five, Haupert hit a big 3-pointer and junior Zach Samson converted a three-point play to put CMB back to within one point again. PCM responded definitively this time, however, as sophomore Dillon Bruxvoort had a three-point play of his own, which was followed by a trey from senior Nate Vande Wall.
“We got to the place where we needed to do something or we were going to lose,” Lorensen said. “I think that got our attention a little bit, and every one of our guys made a big play in the last four minutes.”
CMB junior Austin Moorman hit a three of his own a few possessions later to keep things interesting, but PCM was able to effectively kill the clock and give the game a deceptive final score from how close it really was.
The Mustangs have now won seven in a row and have their sights on another conference title with just four games remaining. Meanwhile, the Raiders have lost close decisions in three-straight games.
Much like it had been all night, the crowd was extremely active in the game and gave it a classic rivalry feel. Despite the teams’ disparities in record, this game was a classic example of how close and entertaining rivalry games can be.
“Obviously PCM/CMB is a huge rivalry in everything, and we went over there and laid an egg in the first game,” Plunkett said. “The boys made a decision that that wasn’t going to happen again. They were in our house, and I think they did a fantastic job. We just need to take care of those little runs and learn how to finish.”
PCM 67, CMB 57
P — 17 17 9 24 — 67
C — 13 14 15 15 — 57
P — DeWitte 18, Neff 18, Bruxvoort 11, Kain 8, Vande Wall 8, Gilman 2, Uhlenhopp 2
C — Moorman 13, Balke 10, Samson 9, Kemp 8, Haupert 7, Galloway 5, Girard 5