HARLAN — The Creston girls basketball team may have lost its regular season finale at Harlan 66-35 on Friday, but head coach Larry McNutt believes his team gained a lot of confidence from the way it played against the Class 4A No. 6-ranked Cyclones.
The Panthers trailed by just 11 at the halftime break, and had it not been for a pair of open 3-pointers for the Cyclones, it could have been a much closer game at halftime.
“I think it just goes to show them that they can play with the best of teams,” McNutt said. “If you can play with Harlan for a half, you can play with just about anybody, because Harlan’s one of the best teams in the state.”
The Panthers put together a solid first half thanks to strong defense and 10-of-11 shooting from the free throw line in the half.
Creston had only five made field goals in the half, but got to the free throw line by getting penetration and working the ball inside.
“We were playing hard, competing,” McNutt said. “Our post defense was pretty good for the most part. We didn’t let their guards get layups. I just thought we competed and played hard. We shot free throws well. We only had five field goals in the first half, but we got to the line, and that really gave us an opportunity.”
Despite giving up nearly six inches to the Harlan post players, the duo of senior Brianna Maitlen and junior Zaidy Frank battled hard inside to keep Creston in the game.
The pair combined for 12 points and 13 rebounds, while also playing strong defense against bigger opponents.
Sophomore Natalie Mostek led the Panthers with 13 points and also grabbed six rebounds.
Harlan pulled away in the second half, as Creston struggled to score from the floor, and only got to the free throw line three times, shooting 2-of-3 in the second half.
The Cyclones shot better than 50 percent for the game from the field, compared to just 22 percent for the Panthers.
Creston finishes the regular season with a 6-16 record, while Harlan improved to 19-2.
The Panthers travel to Glenwood to take on the Rams in first round Class 4A Region 7 action on Wednesday, with game time scheduled for 7 p.m.
“Hopefully we can carry that over into practice on Monday and Tuesday and play a good game on Wednesday,” McNutt said. “An effort like this will help us Wednesday.”
HARLAN (66) — Jess Schaben 12, Taylor Frederick 12, Josie Esser 8, Elle Kloewer 7, Jordyn Moser 6, Taylor Leinen 5, Liz Riessen 4, Ana Petersen 4, Taylor Wagner 4, Hannah Havick 2, Kayla Evers 2. Totals — 28 7-10 66. FG shooting — 28-54 (51.8 percent). Team fouls — 12. Fouled out — none.
CRESTON (35) — Natalie Mostek 5 3-4 13, Zaidy Frank 2 2-2 6, Brianna Maitlen 1 4-4 6, Taylor Briley 1 0-0 3, Chelcee Downing 0 2-2 2, Emma Johnson 1 0-0 2, Alli Thomsen 1 0-0 2, Brenna Baker 0 1-2 1. Totals — 11 12-14 35. FG shooting — 11-49 (22.4 percent). 3-point goals — 1 (Briley). Rebounds — 26 (Frank 8, Natalie Mostek 6, Maitlen 5). Assists — 8 (Downing 4, Maria Mostek 2, Baker 2). Steals — 3 (Maitlen 2, Johnson 1). Turnovers — 13. Team fouls — 15. Fouled out — None.
The Creston girls junior varsity ended its season with a 12-9 record after a 55-28 loss to Harlan.
“The JV struggled to match up in the post,” said freshman coach Mallory Peterson, who filled in for JV coach Mendy McCreight. “We couldn’t stop them down low. They pressed, and we didn’t handle that well.”
Sadie Jones and Taylor Briley each scored six points to lead the Panthers. Maria Mostek added five points.
CRESTON (28) — Sadie Jones 6, Taylor Briley 6, Maria Mostek 5, Jenna Taylor 4, Alli Thomsen 3, Gracie Russell 3, Camryn Somers 1. Rebounds — Jones 6, Taylor 4. Steals— Russell 3, Somers 2. Assists — Briley 3.
The Creston freshman team also ended its season with a loss at Harlan, 37-22, to finish the season with a mark of 9-8.
The Panthers fell behind 13-2 after the first quarter, and despite improved play, couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole.
“We were getting decent looks, but shot 9-of-40 from the field,” freshman coach Mallory Peterson said. “That just won’t win a game. We struggled to guard them inside. They got too many layups off of the lob pass.”
Jenna Taylor led the team with eight points, while Camryn Somers added five and Taylor Briley scored four.
CRESTON (22) — Jenna Taylor 8, Camryn Somers 5, Taylor Briley 4, Alli Thomsen 3, Caitlin McIlravy 2. Rebounds — Taylor 8, Somers 6, Thomsen 4, McIlravy 4. Steals— Somers 3. Assists — Sydney Dunphy 2.