MONROE — As the seconds ticked down on the clock in Tuesday night’s intense matchup between the Cubs of Nevada and Prairie City-Monroe’s Mustangs, a sense of calm set over the gym. It made sense. The game on Tuesday was the epitome of a battle.
There were plenty of fouls, 3-pointers, hard offensive rebounds and intense confrontations. Ultimately, the Mustangs came out on top and claimed at least a share of the Heart of Iowa Conference title with a chance to win it outright when they host Saydel on Friday.
“We watched the tape of the first game and we were just statues out there, and tonight we were cranked up and ready to play. The intensity level between the first time and tonight was just totally different,” PCM coach Fred Lorensen said. “The home crowd was a lot of it. We get a great crowd on the road too, but if you couldn’t play tonight then you can’t play. It was fun.”
At the heart of PCM’s 60-51 victory over Nevada was a supreme team effort by the Mustangs. The ball never stopped moving on offense, forcing the Cubs to slide their defense back and forth, which created gaps for junior Dillon Bruxvoort and seniors Michael Neff and Ethan Kain to attack the basket.
Even more importantly, once a shot went up, the Mustangs pounded the offensive glass. Yes, this led to some over-the-back fouls, but it also led to some terrific finishes off missed shots.
“The ball movement we haven’t been very good at, so it was good to see that. The offensive rebounding was incredible. Michael Neff had a couple of putbacks, that we’re just huge,” Lorensen said. “That’s something we had to do. We had a big size advantage on them obviously and they had the quickness advantage. So we really had to take advantage of that and it was big.”
The matchup promised to be everything that it was. Both teams came into Tuesday with 15-1 records in conference play, and PCM’s only loss of the season came at Nevada a few months ago.
“They’re hard for us to guard. They’re really quick. They attack and try to get to the free throw line a lot. They’re hard to zone because they shoot it so well,” Lorensen said. “They have three or four guys that can really shoot it, but our guys did a good job of closing out and getting their hands up and making shots tough. We made a couple little tweaks to what we did the first time, and I thought it really turned out well”
PCM came out with a ton of energy. Their 1-3-1 zone was much more effective than the first time out. The guys were sliding their feet out to contest jumpers, and the Cubs were ice cold early.
Fastbreak layups and intense defensive play gave PCM the 13-9 lead heading to the second. Nevada turned up their energy level with a full-court press that looked like it was beginning to get into the heads of the PCM players.
Kain and Nevada senior Colynn Black got into it early in the second quarter when the two bumped shoulders and Black proceeded with the contact after Kain had dished the ball. Following this, the Mustangs went on a charge.
They began to break the press with much more ease and sew up any open lanes on defense. Nevada went the final three minutes of the first half without getting any good looks. PCM’s aforementioned ball movement made it that much more tough and the Mustangs led 29-19 at half.
The Mustangs sprinted out of the starting gate in the second half. Neff provided a ton of great work on the offensive boards and his and-one with three minutes left in the third sparked a rally that saw the Mustangs get up by 20.
Nevada hit some threes in the fourth and even managed to cut the lead to six at 57-51 with 41 seconds left. Kain sealed the deal at the free throw line, however, giving his team the 9-point victory.
“(Kain) was hurting. He was really tired, but he sucked it up and played anyway. He played the whole game. I don’t think we ever got him out of there. He wanted out in the first half, so we called a timeout for him,” Lorensen said of Kain. “We need him on the floor. They took care of the pressure for the most part and that was a big part of the victory.”
PCM 60, Nevada 51
N— 9 10 12 20—51
P—13 16 21 10—60
P—Kain 21, Dewitte 12, Neff 12, Gilman 6, Vande Wall 6, Bruxvoort 3