The 1990 Pella Christian Eagle varsity basketball team received a standing ovation from the crowd gathered at the school Thursday, Jan. 16, to honor their State Championship efforts of 30 years ago.
A documentary film called “Soar Mighty Eagles,” was shown prior to the game in the auditorium.
Some of the players had never been in the current modern Pella Christian High School prior to Thursday.
The five starters gathered to talk about the game of basketball 30 years ago and their accomplishments.
Eric Pothoven, who was later named Mr. Basketball in the State of Iowa before departing to college at Liberty University stated, “This is the first time I’ve been back to the school since I graduated.”
The 1990 Eagles played in the old PC gymnasium, which had seats on one side of the court only. The other side was a stage and a few limited seats with chairs were in that area.
You would call the school compared to day, a cracker box, in relative size.
Pothoven said, “I didn’t like new facilities as much as I do the older gymnasiums. The older faciilities are louder and they have a better home feel to them.”
“We had tradition established at the old gymnasium. It was our house and we developed a winning tradition,” Ryan “Woody” Klyn said.
“The game that meant most to be that season was the win over Creston in the Substate game in Indianola. It enabled us to get to state as a school for the first time and that win was really special,” Troy Vander Molen said.
Mark Van Gorp commented, “The State Championship game meant more to me because of how big the game itself was.”
Brent Geetings added, “My favorite game was the win over Western Christian. Overcoming a huge deficit, in the State semi-finals, that was huge. It was Eric Pothoven’s coming out party. He scored 27 in the win.”
Klyn replied, “The Western game, we showed a lot of mental toughness. It was a game where we refused to give up.”
“The last time I saw a game with PC playing was 1993 when the team won the State title,” Pothoven said.
The five starters agreed upon one thing. They said the entire team had a friendship above basketball.
“All 12 players on our team made it back for this celebration,” Klyn said.
“Since the school didn’t offer football back in the 90s, it was better for us because we got more attention,” Klyn stated.
It was brought up that back in the late 80s talk centered around Pella and PC merging to play football together, but it didn’t happen at the time.
In closing, Gettings stated, “We put God first. We were always second. We didn’t care about points. We knew that God was overlooking us and that playing basketball or anything else was not about me.”
Van Gorp and Vander Molen added that God is superior and he has blessed the team. “It’s a storybook ending what we accomplished. We learned to love each other,” Vander Molen stated.
The players as a group talked about how wonderful it was for Coach Nikkel’s son, Joel, to be selected to sign the National Anthem before the Thursday game. Joel was a manager on the 1990 team.
Pothoven recalled, “Pella is far from a perfect place, but it was a good place to grow up in. We had so much community support.”
The team credited PC Athletic Director Dan Branderhorst for the work he did to pull the event together. Also they credited Jeff Verhoef for putting together the video tribute.
People off the court were recognized by the starters as well. People like Dick Bruxvoort (who the players labeled the team mascot). Dick brought fireballs to the game and passed them out. He waved his hat in the air and revved up the crowd on many occasions.
Morry Blankespoor was recognized for his photography.
The players also recognized how important a role their parents played.
Klyn commented, “Chad Dieleman and Brad Wynja were the first two off of the bench and we would not have won the title without them.”
Klyn added that he wanted to thank the newspaper media, Perry Bell from the Pella Chronicle and Andrew from the Oskaloosa Herald for the coverage they provided.
Klyn said, “You guys spent countless hours covering the team and not much attention is given to all writers who spend almost every evening in a gym.”
It was a fun night for all and to all a good night.