MONROE — In order to punch its ticket to a Class 2A district final Thursday night, the Prairie City-Monroe boys’ basketball team needed to exorcise some demons.
Blue Demons, to be exact.
Despite holding Albia to just three points in the third quarter, the Mustangs were never able to relax during their 53-39 district semifinal victory that set up yet another postseason showdown with rival Pella Christian.
“We were just impatient and tried to make some stuff happen too soon,” PCM coach Fred Lorensen said. “We weren’t playing like we were ahead, we were playing like we were behind. It’s nice to know we’ve got some stuff to work on yet.”
It was all Dillon Bruxvoort in the game’s opening minutes as the PCM junior scored the first six points and grabbed a few steals. PCM senior Alex DeWitte added another bucket before Albia actually got on the board and managed a 6-0 run to close the gap. However, PCM senior Nate Vande Wall hit two 3-pointers down the stretch to give the Mustangs some breating room at 16-8.
Albia made its strongest push of the game early in the third when it hit three 3-pointers in a short span to cut the Mustangs’ lead down to four, where it would remain at halftime. PCM’s defense eventually settled in and senior Ethan Kain contributed five points in the quarter to keep the Blue Demons at arm’s length at the break.
“You’ve got to guard them all. There were one or two kids we didn’t have to worry about, but the rest of them could shoot it,” Lorensen said. “They’re hard to defend and I thought we did a really good job defensively. If we had just scored a score a few more points it would’ve been a lot easier on us.”
Both teams’ offenses hit the skids in the third, as the Mustangs seemed to have a lid on their basket and Albia was struggling with a still-challenging PCM defense. Albia senior Tanner Kellogg hit a three to open to frame, but it would be the Blue Demons’ final points until the fourth quarter. Kain responded with an old-fashioned three-point play, which sparked 15-0 to end the quarter and give PCM a 38-22 lead.
“We just needed to settle down,” Kain said. “We were taking way too many threes and they just weren’t falling for us.”
Albia wasn’t ready to go away, even with that deficit in the fourth. After an 8-0 Blue Demon run, Bruxvoort converted on back-to-back baskets to return the lead back to double digits. Kain, Bruxvoort and DeWitte then put the game away at the free-throw line. All three of them and Vande Wall finished in double figures, which likely frustrated the Blue Demon defense considering it had no focal point in the contest.
“That made us harder to defend, I think, and of course we had size mismatches inside that we tried to take advantage of but they kind of had things packed in a little bit,” Lorensen said. “All of our guys can score, but we just had so many tonight that we could’ve made, but didn’t.”
To almost no one’s surprise, the Mustangs will meet Pella Christian in the district championship on Tuesday in Oskaloosa. PCM got the better of the Eagles in their lone meeting this season, and in the postseason last year, but either side will explain that records mean nothing when this increasingly-heated rivalry is sparked on the basketball court. That game will tip at 7 p.m.
“We know them well and they know us well, so it’ll just be two good teams playing,” Lorensen said. “It’s going to happen every year. If we don’t see them in districts or substates, two years ago we saw them in the first round of the state tournament.”
“We beat them once, we can beat them again,” Kain added.
PCM 53, Albia 39
A — 8 11 3 17 — 39
P — 16 7 15 15 — 53
A — Baker 15, Kellogg 12, Hugen 5, Morris 3, Luse 2, Sarver 2
P — Bruxvoort 14, Kain 12, DeWitte 11, Vande Wall 10, Neff 6