GREENFIELD — Coming into Saturday’s matchup between Class 2A top-ranked Nodaway Valley and Class 3A No. 9-ranked Creston, Wolverine head coach Darrell Burmeister said the two players he was most worried about were Luke Neitzel and Colby Taylor.
Neitzel and Taylor did much of the damage, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively in a 59-49 win over the Wolverines here, but it was a pair of Panther senior reserves who came up with arguably two of the biggest plays in the win in front of a capacity crowd.
Saturday’s game marked the first meeting between the two programs in 41 years.
After Nodaway Valley bolted to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter of play, Panther head coach Billy Hiatt told his team to run the offense and attack more, rather than settling for 3-point attempts.
Creston slowly climbed back into the game, as Neitzel dished to Taylor for a layup to cut the lead to 17-10.
But, after Creston senior Briar Evans picked up his second foul, Nodaway Valley center Alex Welsch sank both free throws, making it a 19-10 ballgame.
That’s when Creston senior 6-8 post player Ryan Cook checked into the game for Evans.
“When I put Cook in, I told him we’ve got to have a big game tonight,” Hiatt said.
After Neitzel flew along the baseline for a reverse layup, Cook drew a foul on Welsch, his second, on a blockout, prompting a timeout from Burmeister.
Coming out of the timeout, Welsch blocked Cook’s shot, leading to a Wolverine possession.
The Wolverines worked the ball inside to Welsch, who tried to drive baseline on Cook. When Cook cut that lane off, Welsch spun back toward the lane and put up a jumper, which Cook swatted out to Taylor, sending the Panther crowd into a frenzy.
Taylor dribbled upcourt and sent a skip pass to Trey Thomsen on the opposite wing, who buried a 3-pointer in transition to bring the Panthers to within 19-15.
“He blocked that shot, and it kind of set the tone that we’re back, we’re in this game now, let’s get going,” Hiatt said. “We got down the floor and Trey hit a big three for us. Nodaway Valley got back on their heels a little bit.”
“I thought 55 (Cook), when he came off the bench and blocked Alex’s shots, I think Alex got a little out of sync,” Wolverine head coach Darrell Burmeister said. “Once we get Alex a little further away from the basket, he can do that reverse pivot and then attack. But when he just turns and pivots and shoots, that’s the first time that’s happened. We saw a lot more athleticism and more height than we did all year.”
Cook, who finished with six points and five blocks, said Hiatt’s words to him as he entered the game motivated him.
“That motivated me to get out there and do what I needed to do,” Cook said. “I knew (Welsch) blocked a shot, so I had to get back at him and get that.”
Cook’s block ignited a 21-3 Panther run as Creston scored 28 points in the second quarter and took a 33-26 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Panthers stretch their lead to as many as nine points at 37-28, but the Wolverines battled back to within three at 42-39 after a missed layup by the Panthers led to a Welsch layup for two of his team-high 12 points.
Creston quickly inbounded the ball to Thomsen, who raced into the frontcourt and put up an off-balance 3-pointer from about 30 feet away to put the Panthers up 45-39 at the end of the third quarter.
“We gave them the ball right before that, and I went ‘oh no,’” Hiatt said. “Trey hit that and got us going again. It was one of those games where it’s all about runs. When teams get hot and get going, it’s who can control it and keep going. Those games like that come down to big shots — who can hit the big one and when. And the one Trey hit there was a huge one.”
Thomsen, who came off the bench, scored 11 points for the Panthers.
Twice early in the fourth quarter, Nodaway Valley cut the lead to three points and had a 3-pointer for the tie, but both times the shot missed.
“We had a couple shots for the tie,” Burmeister said. “We do shoot the 3-ball pretty well. Sometimes tonight, when we shot the three, they got blocked. Size really made a difference. We don’t have that kind of size in the guard court in the Pride of Iowa. Their guards really had an impact on our shooting tonight.”
Nodaway Valley, which entered the game shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 33.7 percent on 3-pointers, shot just 30.4 percent from the field and 20 percent on 4-of-20 shooting from 3-point.
The Wolverines cut the lead to four points with 1:02 to go, but Creston hit all six free throw attempts down the stretch to hold off Nodaway Valley.
Burmeister said another key to the game was Creston’s ability to keep the Wolverines from getting any points out of its press defense and on fast breaks.
“This was the most disciplined I’ve seen Creston, of the tapes we had,” Burmeister said. “I thought they could be a great team if they got more discipline, and I thought they got disciplined tonight.”
Creston improved to 12-2 overall with this win and its 79-51 win at Shenandoah on Friday. Nodaway Valley fell to 14-1 for the season.
The Panthers return to action Friday at Denison-Schleswig.
NODAWAY VALLEY (49) — Alex Welsch 4 4-5 12, Dean Frank 4 1-1 11, Brad Baudler 3 3-4 9, Dan Ehrsam 3 1-1 8, TJ Bower 2 2-2 7, Tim Hansen 1 0-0 2. Totals — 17 11-13 49. 3-point goals — 4 (Frank 2, Ehrsam 1, Bower 1). FG shooting — 17-56 (30.4 percent). Rebounds — 30 (Welsch 9, Frank 7, Bower 6, Ehrsam 6). Assists — 8 (Baudler 6). Steals — 8 (Frank 3, Ehrsam 3). Turnovers — 11. Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — Welsch.
CRESTON (59) — Luke Neitzel 7 4-5 18, Colby Taylor 5 4-4 17, Trey Thomsen 4 0-0 11, Ryan Cook 3 0-0 6, Briar Evans 2 0-0 5, Caleb Thompson 1 0-0 2. Totals — 22 8-9 59. 3-point goals — 7 (Taylor 3, Thomsen 3, Evans 1). FG shooting — 22-53 (41.5 percent). Rebounds — 27 (Neitzel 7, Thomsen 5, Thompson 4, Taylor 4, Evans 4, Cook 3). Assists — 3 (Neitzel 1, Thompson 1, Thomsen 1). Steals — 3 (Taylor 1, Kainen Somers 1). Blocked shots — 7 (Cook 5, Taylor 2). Turnovers — 10. Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
NV — 17 26 39 49
Creston — 5 33 45 59
CRESTON (79) — Colby Taylor 6 2-3 18, Trey Thomsen 6 2-3 15, Jay Wolfe 5 1-2 11, Ryan Cook 4 0-2 8, Luke Neitzel 3 0-1 6, Cole Crawford 2 0-0 5, Zach Powers 1 2-2 4, Bryce McIlravy 2 0-2 4, Caleb Thompson 1 0-2 3, Brandon Phipps 1 1-2 3, Kainen Somers 0 2-2 2. Totals — 31 10-21 79. 3-point goals — 7 (Taylor 4, Thompson 1, Thomsen 1, Crawford 1). FG shooting — 31-63 (49.2 percent). Rebounds — 30 (Cook 9, Thomsen 5, Thompson 4). Assists — 13 (Neitzel 4, Taylor 3). Steals — 14 (Taylor 4, Neitzel 4). Blocked shots — 2 (Cook 2). Team fouls — 19. Fouled out — None.
Shenandoah — 17 22 33 51
Creston — 30 48 59 79
The Creston junior varsity boys picked up a pair of road wins over the weekend, defeating both Shenandoah and Nodaway Valley to improve to 11-2.
Christian Groumoutis and Cole Crawford each scored 11 points to lead the Panthers past Shenandoah, 67-34, on Friday. Jay Wolfe added nine and Trey Benson scored six points.
The Panthers outscored Shenandoah by 25 points in the second half after holding just an eight-point lead at halftime.
Creston then defeated Nodaway Valley 68-38 on Saturday.
Crawford had a hot hand from behind the 3-point arc, scoring 22 points to lead Creston. Wolfe added 10 points with five steals and four rebounds. Groumoutis and Alex Nielsen each scored nine points. Cole Thompson added eight points with six steals.
CRESTON (67) — Christian Groumoutis 11, Cole Crawford 11, Jay Wolfe 9, Trey Benson 7, Alex Nielsen 6, Brandon Phipps 5, Nick Noecker 4, Sam Hartsock 5, Maxx Walters 4, Evan Nielsen 3, McClain Haines 2. Rebounds — Wolfe 4, Haines 4, A. Nielsen 3, Noecker 3. Steals — Haines 3.
CRESTON (68) — Cole Crawford 22, Jay Wolfe 10, Christian Groumoutis 9, Alex Nielsen 9, Cole Thompson 8, McClain Haines 6, Trey Benson 2, Sam Hartsock 2. Rebounds — Wolfe 4, Evan Nielsen 3. Steals — Thompson 6, Groumoutis 3, Haines 3.
NODAWAY VALLEY (38)
The Creston freshmen fell 40-32 to Nodaway Valley here on Saturday, falling to 0-10 for the season.
“The boys made a run late in the fourth quarter, but came up just short,” freshman coach Larry Beaman said.
Sam Eagan led the team with 10 points, including two 3-pointers. Josh Reed scored eight and Brandon Jones added seven.
Creston returns to action tonight at Bedford.
CRESTON (32) — Sam Eagan 10, Josh Reed 8, Brandon Jones 7, Nick Walsh 5, Ryan Kucera 2. 3-point goals — Eagan 2.
NODAWAY VALLEY (40)