KNOXVILLE — The marbles were on the line Tuesday night in the Panther den. The unbeaten conference leading Albia Blue Demons came to town to tip it off against the once beaten Knoxville Panthers. A Panther win would give them a share of the conference lead while an Albia win would pretty much lock up the title for the Demons.
Things looked promising for the Panthers in the first half as they grabbed a 17-12 lead after the first eight minutes. But the boys in Blue fought their way back and took a slim 28-27 lead into the halftime break.
In the first quarter, the Panthers were led by Luke Kietges as he drained a three ball and pounded home pair of inside buckets. Spencer Hixon and Noah Keefer each rifled in a long ball and Kieren Nichols knocked down four free throws. Hixson splashed another triple to open the second period and Mike Hudson put a rebound back, but Albia rallied back into the lead behind the scoring of Blake Chance and Jackson DeMoss.
Hard times greeted the Panthers in the second half as the Blue Demons used a 12-3 run to take a 40-30 lead. It was uphill for the Panthers and they battled back to within four at 42-38 with a minute to go. Kietges fueled that run with three buckets on the inside and Nichols cashed a pull-up jumper in the lane. But Brayden Messamaker canned a three to give the Demons a 45-38 lead going into the final eight minutes.
In the first four minutes of the final stanza, the Panthers used triples from Hudson, Hixon and Keegan Cox to once again pull to within four at 52-48, but then the Blue Demons applied the choke hold and the Panthers were out of breath. Clutch free throws gave Albia an 8-0 run and the Blue Demons coasted home with a 62-53 win.
Kietges led Knoxville with 18 points and nine rebounds while Hixon checked in with 12 points. Drew Chance led Albia with 19 points and Blake Chance added 12 points.
The Panthers are now 10-5 and 8-2 in SCC play. They will travel to Bondurant Thursday and come back home on Friday for a SCC joust with EBF.
Albia 12 16 17 17 - 62
Knoxville 17 10 11 15 - 53
Knoxville scoring (FG FTM-FTA Pts) – Luke Kietges 8 0-0 18, Kieren Nichols 2 5-6 9, Mike Hudson 2 1-2 7, Spencer Hixon 4 0-0 12, Noah Keefer 1 1-2 4, Keegan Cox 1 0-0 3. Team 18 7-10 53. Three point goals (10) – Hixon 4, Kietges 2, Hudson 2, Keefer 1, Cox 1.
Knoxville rebounds (19) – Kietges 9, Jack Bertrand 3, Hixon 3, Keefer 2, Hudson 1, Nichols 1.
Knoxville steals (3) Nichols 2, Kietges 1.