PELLA — In perhaps one of the most anticipated games on this year’s regular season, a pair of undefeated and highly-ranked Little Hawkeye Conference foes clashed in a game that lived up to the hype as No. 3 (3A) Pella game from behind to knock off No. 1 (3A) Dallas Center-Grimes 61-58 on Friday night in Pella.
Both teams came out firing with a lot of energy in the first quarter. The two teams combined to hit seven triples in the opening quarter including Karl Miller’s desperation long bomb at the buzzer to cut the Dutch’s deficit to 20-19 after eight minutes.
The second quarter did not go Pella’s way as they energy faded and the turnovers ramped up. Grant Nelson, who dealt with foul trouble for most of the night, picked up his third foul in the second quarter while the Dutch offense struggled with nine first half turnovers and missed runners in the lane.
The Mustangs would take advantage of Pella’s miscues, jumping out to a double-digit halftime lead at 32-23.
“Give DCG credit, I thought they played excellent from the start and had a great first half,” Pella head coach Derek Schulte said. “The second quarter got away from us a little bit and they deserve credit for that. We turned the ball over too much and they were getting to their spots offensively and we just didn’t take them out of their flow. At halftime our guys buckled down, we talked about great teams have to overcome adversity. You have to find ways to win when you’re not playing your best.”
Pella did just as their coach asked. After matching shot for shot early in the second half, the Dutch closed the third quarter on a 15-5 run to gain a 45-44 lead going to the fourth after Ryan Mace’s pull-up jumper.
DCG jumped back out in front early in the fourth as Cole Glasgow and Jackson Jones both splashed home triples to put the Mustangs ahead 52-47 with 5:35 to go.
A Josh Warner running and another Miller three quickly tied the game at 55 with 2:36 left to decide a victor.
The two exchanged big buckets down the stretch. Miller offensive tip in briefly gave the Dutch the lead before Alex Thomas answered with an old-fashioned three-point play for DCG.
Pella would come back with Nelson hitting Warner on a great pass and cut with Warner finishing to put the Dutch ahead by one. DCG would come down and miss a runner, forcing the Mustangs to foul Nelson and send him to the line for a one-and-one with 12 seconds to go.
Nelson, with ice in his veins, made both from the charity stripe to put Pella ahead by three.
DCG would advance the ball to half court and call another timeout with five seconds left needing a three to send the game to overtime.
The Mustangs got the ball to Luke Rankin who missed a fading three at the buzzer, giving the Dutch a huge win over No. 1. Rankin, who impressed in the first half with 11 points, was held scoreless by Pella in the second half although he finished with a double-double with 11 points and 12 assists.
Taking care of the ball was a huge difference for Pella in the second half. After nine turnovers in the first half, the Dutch had 10 assists to just one turnover in the final two quarters while finishing with 18 assists on 24 made baskets. Pella also won the battle of the boards 32-23. There weren’t that many free throws on the night but the Dutch were 3-of-3 while DCG was just 2-of-6.
Miller led the charge for Pella, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting including a perfect 5-of-5 from deep to go along with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
“Karl had a gritty performance tonight,” Schulte said. “He earned every point and they were all over him. He made big shots for us, not just from three, he had a big put back for us and had deflections on the defensive end. Karl has had a great season and we’re going to need that from him going forward as well.”
The Dutch also got 14 points and five assists from Nelson while Warner and Parker Elder both chipped in nine points and Mace added eight points.
Expect Pella to jump to No. 1 when the new polls come out. The Dutch are now in soul possession of the Little Hawkeye Conference lead but Schulte doesn’t want this to be their biggest win this year.
“It’s a great early season test for us,” Schulte said. “We passed that test but we have a lot ahead. We’re excited and we’ll enjoy it this weekend but we don’t want this to be the highlight of our season. We want to keep moving forward and playing our best basketball come tournament time.”
No. 3 (3A) Pella (8-0, 4-0 LHC) gets some time off before facing their inner-city rivals at Pella Christian (3-6, 2-3 LHC) on Friday at 7:45 p.m.