I’ve been doing this for a long time, and last weekend was one of the best 48 hours for Creston sports that I can remember, in terms of success across the board.
On Friday night, the Creston girls had one of their best performances under coach Larry McNutt in two years, dominating Shenandoah from start to finish in a 54-31 victory. Sure, one of Shenandoah’s top two players, Sydney Nielsen, went down with an ankle injury in the first half, but this was a Shenandoah team that came in at 9-5 and Creston’s 4-12 squad took it to them all night.
Zaidy Frank (career-high 21 points) and Brianna Maitlen (nine points) showed what quick feet and tenacity can accomplish around the basket against much taller opponents. Natalie Mostek shut down their lefthanded perimeter player with smart defense, and provided her usual array of stats (14 points, five steals, eight rebounds).
At the same time, the Creston boys were tuning up for the big showdown in Greenfield the following night by pounding the Mustangs in Shenandoah, 79-51.
At Corning, the Creston/Orient-Macksburg wrestlers had a modest 35-28 margin over runner-up Clarinda after one round of the John J. Harris Invitational Tournament. After the quarterfinals later Friday night, it was all but decided already.
Nine Panthers had reached Saturday’s semifinals, and the Panthers were comfortably in front with 95.5 points. Trailing far behind were Clarinda at 58.5 and Tri-Center at 47.
Walking past the old Armory in Corning Saturday on the way to the tournament’s current site — Corning Activity Center — I realized I’ve been to 33 of the 58 Corning wrestling tournaments. Rarely, if ever, have I seen a team totally take control on the first day like Creston/O-M did on Friday.
By the time the Panthers doubled anyone else in the field with four finalists — Kruz Adamson, Jake Marlin, Trevor Frain and Keaton Hulett — the 2012 title defense was in the bag.
It was my first chance to ask Marlin what it felt like to become the all-time victory leader in Creston’s most tradition-rich sport — wrestling.
“I haven’t really paid much attention to it, but it is pretty cool,” Marlin said. “But I’m not happy with it yet. I’d like to get to 200 wins.”
Hulett, headed to Northwest Missouri State to play football, is also climbing the all-time chart. The current top 10 in Creston history going into Thursday’s dual meet: 1. Jake Marlin (2010-13) 187; 2. Kalab Evans (2005-08) 181; 3. Andrew Long (2005-08) 180; 4. Quin Leith (2005-08) 175; 5. Keaton Hulett (2010-13) 159; 6. Collin Bevins (2009-12) 158; 7. (tie) Boone Hayes (2001-04) 156 and Caleb Brus (2004-07) 156; 9. Bret Kautz (2005-08) 149; and 10. Willie Harris (2000-03) 146.
During the finals, I got a message from Scott Vicker in Greenfield that the Nodaway Valley boys were leading Creston, 17-5.
Then a few minutes later, I checked my phone and Scott said Creston had moved in front at halftime, 33-26.
It looked like a real barnburner was taking shape in the Nodaway Valley gym. I wanted to be two places at once.
As the wrestling tournament was wrapping up, and I moved around to conduct interviews, I had my laptop logged in to the live video stream at Nodaway Valley coordinated by Jane Woodside.
As you can imagine, I had to work through a crowd of people huddled around the screen to get back into my seat at the table, as people were fascinated by the conclusion of the game, won by Creston, 59-49.
Scoring in double figures for Creston were Luke Neitzel (18), Colby Taylor (17) and Trey Thomsen (11), and it’s been well chronicled how 6-8 Ryan Cook came off the bench to make a key contribution. This kind of team performance will be needed in a substate loaded with the likes of Atlantic and Harlan.
It was also a good experience for Nodaway Valley, in preparation for its own state tournament push in 2A this year. On a “normal” shooting night for the Wolverines, the outcome could have been different. And, I agree with those who say this game should be played every year.
Leave it to former Creston coach Vic Belger to keep an accurate record of history. We reported in error that it had been more than 40 years since Greenfield (or Nodaway Valley) met Creston on the basketball court.
Actually, when Ron Juhler was coach of the Greenfield Tigers, they participated in the old Creston Holiday Tournament at SWCC. On Dec. 22, 1988, Creston beat Greenfield 75-44; and in 1990 the outcome was similar at 77-47.
After that first meeting was the infamous “rainout” game at SWCC, where a leaky roof and wet floor caused suspension of the Creston vs. Diagonal game. The fourth quarter was made up later, with Diagonal taking a 64-53 victory under coach Dennis Tassell.
By the way, while all of this was going on Saturday, Creston was hosting Shenandoah in high school bowling, and picking up victories in both girls and boys action.
After a great final round at the wrestling tournament, it would have been nice to just go home and kick back. But, there was no rest for the weary. The second meeting of once-beaten Lamoni (52-50 to Murray) and undefeated Murray was taking place at 7:45 p.m. in Murray for the Bluegrass Conference tournament title.
Listening to a broadcast of the Iowa-Wisconsin game and tribute to Chris Street on the radio on my drive across Highway 34, I was also wishing I could be in Iowa City at that moment, too. I still remember exactly where I was standing in the Creston High School parking lot after a Panther basketball game 20 years ago, when someone drove by, rolled down the window, and told me they just heard Chris Street died.
He was the ultimate competitor, and a true talent with NBA potential. The photo of him laughing on the bench with coach Tom Davis is hanging prominently in my home.
Anyway, Lamoni got hot early and won Saturday’s game, 62-50, in front of a standing-room only crowd in the Jerry Brown Gymnasium, including Jerry Brown himself.
Murray gained revenge and took a 2-1 series lead this season with a convincing 92-60 triumph Tuesday night in conference play. As a coach, I wouldn’t have been overly pleased with the reaction of the Lamoni folks when Tim Brunner slammed a breakaway dunk in the fourth quarter.
They were cheering and going crazy, like they’d never seen a dunk before. The score at the time was 76-47, Murray’s favor. All the Mustang fans would need to do at that point was smile and point to the scoreboard!
“As far as I know, that wasn’t a 15-point basket,” mused Brown afterward.
All I know is, I want to be there when those teams hook up again in district play. Each team has had a sub-par outing in the games I’ve witnessed. If they’re both on their games, it will be a war.
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