Two teams that have developed a seething rivalry over the past several years got after each other again Tuesday night in the Class 2A district final.
Pella Christian and PCM of Monroe know each other well and when they get together, a battle rages, sometimes of seismic proportions. Tuesday night’s game was no exception as the defenses prevailed in a super intense atmosphere.
The big shot of the game came with 2:04 left in the game and PCM was holding a 35-34 lead. Pella Christian’s Sebastian Baugh found an open look from three-point land on the right side and split the cords for three points. That gave the Eagles a 37-35 lead and things were cooking on the Eagle side of the floor.
Now the defense stepped up big time and the Mustangs did not score again. Both teams had opportunities, but shots would not fall and the defenses forced turnovers. Finally in the final four seconds, Austin Vermeer canned a pair of free throws and with three seconds left and Blake Riggen made one of two to put the finishing touches on a 40-35 win.
Pella Christian coach Larry Hessing quickly pointed out the two main things responsible for the win.
“Tonight it was defense and rebounding that did it,” Hessing said. “They got one offensive rebound tonight and the last time we played, they got 12 offensive boards. Tonight, we had 11 offensive rebounds and Vermeer had five of them while Riley Stursma added three more. Our offense was somewhat lacking and their defense probably had something to do with that. Their zone was tough. We tried to put in a couple of new wrinkles, but points were very hard to come by.”
One had to believe that it was a defensive night after the first quarter. The two teams sized each other up like a pair of heavyweights looking for a weak spot and neither could capitalize. The quarter ended with the Mustangs holding a 7-5 lead. The only Eagle points came on a three-ball by Riggen and a cut through the middle for two by Baugh.
PCM extended their lead with a 10-5 run in the first six and one half minutes of the second period. Dillon Bruxvoort led the Mustangs in that surge.
The Eagles found a late spark and hit a 6-0 run to finish the half and cut the deficit to one at 17-16. Austin Vermeer got loose for an pair of inside baskets and Riggen scored on a breakaway basket to give his team a lift going into halftime.
The Eagles drew first blood of the second half when Vermeer dug out a loose ball and stuck it in the hole and Jared Van Wyk followed with a three-point bomb for a 21-17 Pella Christian lead.
The Mustangs came roaring back to tie the game at 21-21 on a baseline drive by Bruxvoort. The two teams then exchanged baskets until Nathan VandeWall canned a three to give PCM a 31-30 lead. But the Eagles answered with a put back by Vermeer and a pull up jumper in the lane by Baugh to take a 32-31 lead into the final stanza.
Vermeer was relieved to be moving on to the substate final and he had high praise for the Mustangs.
“They really made it tough for us on the inside,” Vermeer said. “We have played them four times in the past two years and it has developed into quite a rivalry. They are fundamentally sound and it is an even match up when we get together. We didn’t rebound well the first time we played. This time we really went to the boards.”
Vermeer and Riggen led the Eagles with 14 points apiece and Baugh was next in line with seven. Vermeer led his team on the glass with nine rebounds and Stursma yanked down seven boards. Bruxvoort led the Mustangs with 15 points while no other Mustang had more than five points.
The Eagles will take a 19-4 record to Ottumwa Saturday night for the substate final. The opponent will be Burlington Notre Dame, a 53-51 winner over Mediapolis.
Pella Christian 40, PCM 35
PCM 7 10 14 4 — 35
PC 5 11 16 8 — 40
PELLA CHRISTIAN (40) — Sebastian Baugh 3 0-0 7, Riley Stursma 1 0-1 2, Blake Riggen 5 1-2 14, Jared Van Wyk 1 0-0 3, Austin Vermeer 6 2-3 14. Totals 16 3-6 40.
3-Point goals — 5 (Baugh 1, Riggen 3, Van Wyk 1) Total fouls 11.
Rebounds — 26 (Baugh 4, Stursma 7, Riggen 3, Vermeer 9, Colton Colins 3). Steals — 9 (Baugh 5, Riggen 1, Vermeer 3). Assists — 9 (Baugh 2, Stursma 4, Vermeer 3). Total fouls — 11.