HARLAN — The Creston boys basketball team accomplished something Tuesday night it hadn’t done in 33 years.
The Panthers defeated Harlan 56-51 here Tuesday, marking the first two-game regular season Creston boys sweep of Harlan since the 1979-80 season. Creston’s state championship season of 1996-97 fell within a five year stretch from the 1993-94 season through the 1998-99 season when the two teams played only once in the regular season.
“It’s a good way to finish the season, especially winning at Harlan,” Creston head coach Billy Hiatt said. “Those are hard to get.”
The Panthers pulled off the win while leading scorer Colby Taylor battled illness.
That left the door open for other players to step up and contribute for the Panthers.
“Our post presence did a good job, defensively, especially,” Hiatt said. “Briar (Evans) and (Ryan) Cook played well. (Luke) Neitzel played well in the post when he got shuffled down there. Jay Wolfe played well off the bench and made some crucial plays. Caleb and Cole Thompson came in and gave us some good minutes. It was a pretty good team effort here, for sure.”
Neitzel led the way with 16 points, while Evans pitched in 11 points. Taylor scored 10 points despite battling through his illness.
Hiatt shuffled his lineup to try and find the right combination to give him scoring threats.
Getting different rotations into the game, Hiatt said, helps Creston get ready for playoff time.
Like usual, the win against Harlan didn’t come easy, as Creston had to hit free throws and make stops down the stretch to hang on for a win.
“We got us a lead a little bit, and then just hanging on and trying to execute and do things right,” Hiatt said. “We were up four at one time, and we missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then we got fouled again. Luke hit both of them to put us up six. We had to make a defensive stop. It came down to free throws and blocking out, getting rebounds.”
The Panthers had to make adjustments at halftime after Harlan controlled the post in the first half.
Harlan held a 14-11 lead after the first quarter, but Creston took a 27-26 lead into halftime before pulling away.
Hiatt stressed better defense and attacking the offensive glass at halftime.
Creston responded to Hiatt’s halftime adjustments and took control in the second half.
Hiatt said it helped to have such a good crowd travel to support the team.
“We had really good crowd support,” Hiatt said. “I think that helped us out there tonight on the road.”
The Panthers end the regular season with an 18-3 overall record, and 11-2 in the Hawkeye 10, finishing second in the conference.
Atlantic took the league crown with a conference record of 12-1. The Trojans edged Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln 58-57 on Tuesday.
Now, the attention turns to Monday’s district opener at home against Winterset.
The Panthers defeated Winterset 67-52 on Feb. 4.
“We just have to get ready for Winterset now,” Hiatt said. “Hopefully we can carry the momentum to go against Winterset.”
HARLAN (51) — Trey Lansman 17, Gale Ferry 14, Nate Cave 12, Adam Juhl 4, Kyle Juhl 4.
CRESTON (56) — Luke Neitzel 6 4-4 16, Briar Evans 5 1-1 11, Colby Taylor 4 0-1 10, Trey Thomsen 2 3-4 8, Kainen Somers 1 2-3 4, Jay Wolfe 1 0-0 3, Cole Thompson 1 0-0 2, Ryan Cook 1 0-0 2. Totals — 22 10-13 56. 3-point goals — 4 (Taylor 2, Thomsen 1, Wolfe 1). Rebounds — Neitzel 5, Thomsen 4. Assists — Thomsen 3. Steals — Taylor 3, Somers 2, Cole Thompson 1, Neitzel 1, Wolfe 1. Blocked shots — Taylor 1, Wolfe 1, Cook 1.
Harlan — 14 26 39 51
Creston — 11 27 45 56
The Creston boys junior varsity ended the season with a 16-3 record after a 70-56 loss to a hot-shooting Harlan team.
“I have never been involved in a game where everything they shot, they hit,” Creston JV coach Kritter Hayes said. “I know for a fact they only missed two shots in the first half. I think we were down 26 points at one time and pulled to within seven in the final couple of minutes before they hit free throws.”
Brandon Phipps, Cole Thompson, Jay Wolfe and Nick Noecker each scored nine points for the Panthers.
CRESTON (56) — Brandon Phipps 9, Cole Thompson 9, Jay Wolfe 9, Nick Noecker 9, McClain Haines 6, Christian Groumoutis 5, Cole Crawford 5, Alex Nielsen 4. Rebounds — Wolfe 6. Steals — Thompson 4, Phipps 2.