ATLANTIC — With the Hawkeye 10 Conference title on the line, Atlantic rose to the occasion and defeated Creston here Friday night in a battle of top-five teams, 47-38.
The No. 2 Trojans clinched the outright title for the second year in a row with the win. Creston, ranked fifth, could have clinched at least a share of the title with a win.
The Trojans finish with a Hawkeye 10 record of 12-1 and improved to 19-1 overall with one game left on its regular season schedule. Creston fell to 17-3 overall and 10-2 in the Hawkeye 10.
Friday’s game was every bit as physical as the first meeting between the two teams in Creston on Jan. 8, a 47-40 win for the Trojans.
But one glaring difference in Friday’s contest was Creston’s inability to get the ball inside. The Panthers shot just one free throw in the game.
“They played physical against us tonight, and we just didn’t step up to the challenge,” Creston head coach Billy Hiatt said. “We settled for outside shots. I think we shot one free throw. That is not bad officiating, it’s just that we didn’t attack the offensive glass. That’s something we have to work on.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, the Panthers pounded the ball inside early, getting close looks at the basket and getting the Trojans into foul trouble, getting to the bonus in the first quarter.
Atlantic gave the Panthers a different look on defense this time around, though; applying full-court pressure against Creston.
The Trojans also played with a high level of intensity in the halfcourt defense.
“They really pressured us out wide, a lot higher,” Hiatt said. “And, we also attacked them inside at our place. We moved the ball around and hit some dumps down low, and got them in foul trouble. But tonight, we didn’t attack the rim. If you don’t do that, they don’t have to take a chance of fouling you. We just have to attack the glass better.”
Atlantic started the game on an 8-2 run over the course of the first 4:00 of the game, before Creston responded with a 9-2 run over the next 5:00 of game time.
The two teams traded blows the remainder of the half, and trailing 19-18 with less than :30 left in the half, Creston had a chance to hold for one final shot and a chance to take a lead into halftime.
But, Atlantic’s Sam Markham came up with a steal and raced up the floor for a slam dunk to put Atlantic up 21-18.
Creston again had an opportunity to put points on the board before the end of the half, but Luke Neitzel was called for a charge while trying to create a shot for himself in the final seconds.
Creston got a good start to the second half as Colby Taylor, who sat much of the first half with foul trouble, got an offensive rebound and putback for his first points of the game to cut the lead to 21-20.
Briar Evans followed that up by circling through the lane and hitting a one-handed shot to give Creston a 22-21 lead.
But it was the last lead Creston would hold in the game, as Dalton Franken responded with a big 3-pointer from the corner.
For an Atlantic team that had missed several layups and didn’t make a single 3-pointer in the first half, it was a big turning point.
“First half, we probably missed five layups,” said Atlantic head coach Steve Blazek, a Creston native. “Second half, I thought we played with a lot more composure and got into our stuff a lot better.”
Atlantic built up a seven-point lead in the third quarter before a Taylor 3-pointer cut the lead back to four at 31-27. The lead was again cut to four points when Neitzel dumped a pass off to Ryan Cook for a layup to make it 33-29.
But that was as close as Creston would get for the remainder of the game.
After cutting the lead to 42-35 with 2:26 left in the game, Atlantic’s Chad Christensen hit a big 3-pointer to make it a 10-point lead and essentially put the game away.
“Chad’s big three there down the stretch was nice,” Blazek said. “I thought Dalton’s defensive job on Taylor was outstanding, and also Sam on Neitzel. A couple of times we got beat on our pressure and let them get out in the open court, but I thought for the most part, we made them work really, really hard to get the ball inbounds and down into the offensive set.”
Creston travels to Harlan for its regular season finale on Tuesday.
The good news for Creston is if the Panthers win their opening round game against Winterset, there’s the potential for another crack at Atlantic in the district final.
“We kind of knew early on that we’d have to go through Atlantic to move on, probably,” Hiatt said. “We’ve played each other twice. We know each other pretty well. It’ll be down to who wants it more, really. They’ve got two games on us now, but you’ve got to play another day, so hopefully we’ll see them again.”
ATLANTIC (47) — Sam Markham 6 0-0 14, Dalton Franken 5 1-2 12, Chad Christensen 3 2-2 9, Harrison Hoegh 3 1-4 7, Stuart Hoegh 1 3-4 5. Totals — 18 7-12 47. 3-point goals — 4 (Markham 2, Christensen 1, Franken 1). FG shooting — 18-49 (36.7 percent). Rebounds — 32 (Stuart Hoegh 10, Franken 10, Markham 5, Harrison Hoegh 5). Assists — Christensen 7, Franken 5. Steals — Markham 5. Team fouls — 9. Fouled out — None.
CRESTON (38) — Trey Thomsen 4 0-0 9, Ryan Cook 4 1-1 9, Briar Evans 3 0-0 6, Colby Taylor 2 0-0 5, Caleb Thompson 2 0-0 4, Cole Thompson 1 0-0 3, Luke Neitzel 1 0-0 2. Totals — 17 1-1 38. 3-point goals — 3 (Taylor 2, Thomsen 1, Cole Thompson 1). FG shooting — 17-46 (36.9 percent). Rebounds — 33 (Evans 9, Thomsen 8, Neitzel 5, Caleb Thompson 5, Taylor 3, Kainen Somers 2). Assists — 10 (Neitzel 8). Steals — 3 (Neitzel 2). Blocked shots — 2 (Cook 1, Taylor 1). Team fouls — 12. Fouled out — None.
Atlantic — 10 21 36 47
Creston — 9 18 31 38
The Creston boys junior varsity team improved to 16-2 for the season with a 66-28 win at Atlantic.
“Another team effort on both ends of the floor,” JV coach Kritter Hayes said. “Other than a few mistakes in our defensive transition and a few stagnant offensive possessions, this was a great game for our team. We may make a few mistakes, but we correct it and move on fast.”
Cole Thompson led the team with 11 points, while Cole Crawford added nine and Jay Wolfe scored eight.
CRESTON (66) — Cole Thompson 11, Cole Crawford 9, Jay Wolfe 8, Brandon Phipps 6, McClain Haines 5, Alex Nielsen 5, Christian Groumoutis 5, Evan Nielsen 4, Nick Noecker 3, Trey Benson 3, Sam Hartsock 3, Maxx Walters 2, Jake Miller 2. Rebounds — Benson 6. Steals — Thompson 5. Assists — Phipps 3. Blocked shots — Groumoutis 2.
The Creston freshmen team fell at Atlantic, 52-13, on Friday.
Brandon Lee led the team with eight points, while Brandon Jones scored four and Josh Reed added one point.
The Creston freshmen finish their season Tuesday at Harlan, with game time scheduled for 5:45 p.m.