OSKALOOSA — There is a short list of constants in the universe.
Among them are examples like the speed of light, Isaac Newton’s gravitational constant and the Prairie City-Monroe and Pella Christian boys basketball teams meeting in the postseason.
Although the Mustangs have won two straight in the rivalry, the Eagles earned some revenge with a wild 40-35 victory Tuesday night at Oskaloosa High School. The game went down to the wire, with both teams squandering chances to put the game away before a pair of clinching free throws with 3.9 seconds left.
“We turned the ball over several times ourselves and had the ball on the rim twice, but couldn’t get it in,” PCM coach Fred Lorensen said. “You’ve just got to finish those, and we didn’t. We had our chances, but you’ve got to make some baskets.”
PCM junior Dillon Bruxvoort quickly put the Mustangs up 5-0 to open the game, which would actually be the biggest lead for either team all night. Neither team was really able to finish their shots as PCM got one more bucket from senior Alex DeWitte to take a 7-5 lead after one quarter.
DeWitte opened the second with a basket and was backed up by another by senior Nate Vande Wall before Bruxvoort scored on back-to-back possessions to keep up with Pella Christian’s Blake Riggen, who dumped in five early in the second.
“He did a really good job for us in the first half, and was tired in the second since we didn’t sub very much,” Lorensen said of Bruxvoort. “That’s hard to keep up playing like that.”
After a backdoor layup from junior Zach Uhlenhopp, it appeared the Mustangs were going to carry some momentum into halftime. However, the Eagles made their move and were able to close out on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 17-16. PCM had a few costly turnovers that foreshadowed what the end of the game would look like.
“There’s not much you can say by then. With 22 seconds left, I was calling out for the last shot and no one heard me, then we throw the ball away right away,” Lorensen said. “You’ve got to give (Pella Christian) a lot of credit because they’re good at guarding people, but we’ve just got to take care of the ball better.”
The third quarter provided nearly half of the game’s total offense as the Mustangs and Eagles started going shot-for-shot. Pella Christian took its first lead of the game with a 5-0 run, but Bruxvoort responded with four straight points to tie things back up. PCM senior Ethan Kain then scored five in a short stretch to respond to Eagles buckers and keep things close.
Vande Wall and senior Michael Neff hit big shots down the stretch to actually regain the lead for PCM, but Pella Christian freshman Sebastian Baugh — who would come into play again — hit a jumper to give the Eagles a 32-31 lead going into the fourth.
With the crowds battling via chants, the tone was set for dramatics. Bruxvoort scored the opening basket to regain the lead, but Pella Christian senior Riley Stursma answered back. PCM freshman Logan Gilman then took the lead right back with a hard-fought bucket, but it would be PCM’s last one of the game.
Baugh hit a 3-pointer with right around two minutes left to ultimately win the game for the Eagles. The game’s final two minutes featured four steals off inbound passes between the two teams, multiple missed free throws and shots that just didn’t seem to want to go in.
PCM’s final possession ended with a missed front-end free throw with 6.4 seconds left, and Pella Christian senior Austin Ver Meer clinched the game from the charity stripe.
“Our last play was designed to do one or the other,” Lorensen said. “We had a chance to stick it in the post if he was open, and we also had Nate waiting on the perimeter for a 3-point shot, but we never got it over there. We thought about running a 3-point shot for Nate right away, but when you’re down by two you don’t need that, so we thought we’d give ourselves a chance either way.”
The loss put an end to a 21-win season for the Mustangs and gave them just their second loss. Considering what the team lost from last season, Lorensen couldn’t have been happier with this year’s group of seniors that stepped out from the shadow of their predecessors to show they can win too.
“They’re just a great group and I’m really proud of those guys,” Lorensen said. “If you would’ve told anybody at the start of the year that they would win 21 games this year, not many would believe that. They had a lot to proove, but they had a great year and I’m sad to see it end the way it did. We’re going to miss them a lot when they get out of here.”
Pella Christian 40, PCM 35
PCM — 7 10 14 4 — 35
PC — 5 11 16 8 — 40
PCM — Bruxvoort 15, Vande Wall 5, DeWitte 4, Gilman 2, Neff 2, Uhlenhopp 2
PC — Riggen 14, Ver Meer 14, Baugh 7, Van Wyk 3, Stursma 2