The Knoxville Panthers stepped out of the South Central Conference Monday, Jan. 13, to visit long time rival Pella Christian on Eagle Lane Monday night. The welcoming party was not any too kind to the Panthers as the Eagles used a tenacious defense and a strong inside game to post a 21-6 lead after one quarter of play.
The Eagles opened the game with a long ball by Dan Jungling and then went inside. The powerful inside game featured three buckets by lanky Isaiah Gritters and several driving layups by Keean Cadwell, Jack Vermeer and Jungling. Vermeer closed the first period with a 50 plus foot heave from just to the right of the free throw line at the opposite end of the court for three points.
The Eagle defense was geared to stop Panther ace, Kieren Nichols, and it was very successful for the first quarter as the Eagles held Nichols to two points. The crafty Knoxville shooter still collected 31 points for the game, but they were 31 hard earned points.
The good news for the Panthers was that they erupted for 29 points in the second stanza. The bad news was that the Eagles scored 28 in a freewheeling eight minutes.
Nichols used his driving ability to get to the line and he sank 8-of-8 free throws and a drive shot in the quarter. Spencer Hixson added a three point basket and a pair of deuces and Luke Keitges and Alex Eckert each had treys.
The Eagles continued to pound the ball inside to Gritters and Luke Mulder for points and they went outside for a pair of threes from Bryant Agre. PC also got three buckets from Cadwell and a pair from Levi Schelhaas.
The Eagles took a 49-35 lead into intermission and built on that lead with a 23- 11 edge in the third period. In that run the Eagles had a pair of three balls from Jungling and one each from Schelhaas and Jace Amelse.
The Panthers would outscore the Eagles 20-14 in the final frame, but a 72-46 hole after three quarters would just be too deep a hole to crawl out of.
“Pella Christian is a good team,” Panther coach Jeff Larson said. “They are so fundamentally strong and we are a little weak in that area. Their defense is so tough and they are in your face all the time.”
Balance was the word for the Eagles as five players were in double digits and two more had eight points. Leading the way was Cadwell with 15 points and Gritters was close behind with 14.
Then came Jungling with 12 points, Schelhaas with 11, Agre 10 and Vermeer and Mulder with eight points apiece. Gritters yanked down 10 rebounds to complete a double-double and Vermeer led the team in assists with five.
Nichols dished out seven assists to go with his 31 points and Hixson was also in double figures with 14 points.
Hixson led the team on the glass with eight rebounds and Keitges buried three threes from behind the arc for nine points.
“We passed the ball very well tonight,” Eagle coach Larry Hessing said. “Our balance was awesome and we like that. In the absence of Josh Van Gorp, Isaiah and Luke gave us 22 points from that position and Isaiah had a double-double. Our transition offense was good and we have been working on that. We had only nine turnovers and that is good. Nichols is so good and he is hard for any defense to contain. Knoxville is a developing team and they will improve.”
Pella Christian scoring – Levi Schelhaas 2 6-7 11, Keean Cadwell 7 1-3 15, Dan Jungling 4 1-1 12, Bryant Agre 3 2-2 10, Jack Vermeer 3 1-2 8, Jace Amelse 2 0-2 5, Bradyn Zula 1 0-0 3, Luke Mulder 4 0-1 8, Isaiah Gritters 7 0-1 14, Team 33 11-19 86. Three point goals (9) – Jungling 3, Agre 2, Schelhaas 1, Vermeer 1, Amelse 1, Zula 1.
Pella Christian rebounds (44) – Gritters 10, Ryan Vande Haar 6, Cadwell 6
Pella Christian assists (18) – Vermeer 5, Amelse 4, Vande Haar 4, Agre 3