It has been 30 years since the Pella Christian Eagles first took down the nets at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium to celebrate the first ever state title for the varsity boys’ basketball team in their first ever trip to State.
The 1990 PC squad, coached by Jerry Nikkel posted a perfect record of 25-0.
The memories are wonderful when looking back at the perfect season.
The starting five for PC were four seniors and a super sophomore.
The senior front line consisted of 6’4” Ryan “Woody” Klyn, 6’7” Mark Van Gorp, 6’4” Brent Geetings, 6’0” Troy Vander Molen and 6’1” Eric Pothoven.
Pothoven was the lone sophomore among the starters.
The first three off the bench were 6’3” junior Brad Wynja, 6’8” sophomore Chad Dieleman and 5’11 Kyle Jansen.
Pella Christian hit 60 percent of their field goal attempts in the championship game as they rolled past Forest City for the state title, 81-55.
The Eagles put four players in double digits, Mark Van Gorp led with 19 points and Pothoven followed with 18.
It is tough to say, but truth be known, the game that is still talked about in Eagle Country on Eagle Lane is the semi-final win at State over Western Christian of Hull.
Nikkel replied, “We trailed Western 29-12 and were down at halftime 36-26.”
PC cut the deficit to 49-44 at the end of three quarters.
“Our first lead of the game was at 58-57,” Nikkel said.
Western fell to 22-2 with the loss. Pothoven had 27 and Klyn popped in 16 in the stunning comeback.
The first round of State action had the Eagles flying past Cedar Rapids Regis 68-50 behind 27 points from Pothoven.
The victory that propelled the Eagles to State was a demolition of the Creston Panthers 100-53 in the Sub-State game held in Indianola
Vander Molen had 24 points and Van Gorp 20 points and 13 rebounds.
PC’s other tournament trails wins were over Davis County 102-48. A 67-49 thumping of the Pella Dutch and a 66-38 triumph over the Chariton Chargers.
An early season 67-57 win over the Washington Demons at Central College was the early indication how special the 1990 team was.
Washington was the No. 1 ranked team in the class. The start of the season ratings had Western at No. 2, Wapsie Valley at 3, PC at 4, Creston 7 and Waukee at 9.
A few of the other monumental wins for the team were 55-44 over Knoxville, 91-67 over Albia, 75-46 over Newton, 67-46 over Ottumwa, 76-45 over the S.E. Polk Rams and 75-38 over Pella during the regular season.
“I kept telling our team, we just need to get to State. The longer it goes on, you keep wondering if you will ever get to State,” Nikkel said.
That’s why the Sub-State win over Creston ranks as one of the biggest wins in school history.
It opened the door to greener pastures ahead.
You might recall the 1990 PC title was the first of three for the school in the early 90s.
PC won the 1992 and 1993 State titles as well.
The Eagles were a perfect 9-0 in their first three trips to State, which delivered Coach Nikkel’s teams three golden first place trophies.
Odds and Ends
“There was no bigger win than the one over Western Christian, considering who it was against and the huge comeback,” Nikkel replied.
The closest game the team had prior to State was a narrow 65-62 win over Ballard of Huxley in the Homecoming game played in Pleasantville.
Van Gorp was an animal in the Ballard contest with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
“Thirty years later there is a lot to be thankful for. My wife, Judy, did a wonderful job raising our children, Jeff, Joel and Jason,” Nikkel said.
He added, “To see the young men grow up to be successful in life and become intelligent very serious minded individuals is just wonderful.”