After a quick start to the game, the Class 3A sixth-rated Creston Panthers found themselves in a close game, trailing 14-10 early in the first quarter after a Trae Gilliland 3-pointer for Winterset.
But, Creston responded with a 29-4 run to close out the second quarter and through the first three minutes of the third quarter, in a 79-49 win over the Huskies here on Monday.
Creston improved to 19-3 with the win and advances to the district final Thursday in Greenfield against Atlantic.
The Trojans overcame a slow start, pulling away from ADM for a 63-43 win on Monday.
Thursday’s game between the Panthers and the Trojans will mark the third meeting between the two teams, with both teams being ranked in the Associated Press top 10 for each meeting.
With the possibility of inclement weather on Thursday, the Iowa High School Athletic Association is looking at moving the game to Friday, but that decision will not be made until the snowstorm hits.
The Panthers bolted to a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter, but Winterset answered with an 8-0 run, taking advantage of seven Creston turnovers int he quarter and taking an 11-8 lead into the first intermission.
Panther head coach Billy Hiatt went to his bench to try to ignite a spark on the floor.
Cole Thompson and Zach Powers gave the Panthers solid minutes off the bench early.
“We went to our a bench a little bit and got some energy from some of our guys and got going a little bit,” Hiatt said. “Powers does a good job of playing defense, and I knew I’d get some energy from him. That’s the luxury of having a good bench, is you can go to it and see what happens with it.”
That’s when Creston put together its 29-4 run, putting the game out of reach.
Seven different Panther players scored during that run, led by Luke Neitzel, Briar Evans and Trey Thomsen, who each scored six points during the stretch.
Overall, it was a balanced scoring effort for the Panthers.
Four players scored in double figures — Thomsen (14), Neitzel (13), Evans (11) and Colby Taylor (10) — while Alex Nielsen added nine and Jay Wolfe netted eight points.
In total, 12 of 14 Creston players scored in the game.
It was a good way for the senior class of nine players to go out in their final game in front of the home crowd.
“We talked about that pregame — it’d be the last go-round for these people to get to see them play,” Hiatt said. “They did a real good job. Played good team basketball and came out scoring.”
The seniors scored 57 of Creston’s 79 points.
Barring a postponement for the weather, the Creston vs. Atlantic trilogy will come to an end Thursday night in Greenfield.
Atlantic, ranked second in Class 3A, owns two wins over Creston so far this year, by scores of 47-40 and 47-38.
But, the third and final meeting between the two teams is the meeting with the most on the line — a spot in the substate final against the winner of the Harlan vs. Carroll game in Denison.
Harlan advanced to the district final with a 79-53 win over Glenwood Monday, while Carroll needed overtime to defeat Greene County, 59-52.
The Cyclones knocked off Carroll 70-51 on Thursday in the regular season finale.
Hiatt feels like his team will be ready for Atlantic on Thursday.
“These guys know each other, played against each other for so long,” he said. “We practiced some different things to try to get ready. We kind of tried them there against Winterset to get a look at it. I think we’re ready.”
WINTERSET (49) — CJ Caudle 6 4-5 18, Lucas Nolan 4 0-0 10, Ryan Scheetz 3 1-1 8, Noah Kaldenberg 1 2-4 5, Cory Briney 2 1-1 5, Trae Gilliland 1 0-0 3. Totals — 17 8-11 49. 3-point goals — 7 (Caudle 2, Nolan 2). Team fouls — 15. Fouled out — Gilliland, Briney.
CRESTON (79) — Trey Thomsen 6 1-2 14, Luke Neitzel 5 2-2 13, Briar Evans 5 1-2 11, Colby Taylor 4 0-0 10, Alex Nielsen 3 2-2 9, Jay Wolfe 3 2-2 8, Zach Powers 1 1-2 4, Cole Thompson 1 1-1 3, Caleb Thompson 1 0-0 2, Bryce McIlravy 0 2-2 2, Brandon Phipps 1 0-0 2, Ryan Cook 0 1-2 1. Totals — 30 13-19 79. 3-point goals — 6 (Taylor 2, Thomsen 1, Powers 1, Neitzel 1, Nielsen 1). FG shooting — 30-50 (60 percent). Rebounds — 27 (Neitzel 6, Evans 6, Thomsen 5, Taylor 3, Caleb Thompson 3). Assists — 13 (Neitzel 5, Kainen Somers 3, Cole Thompson 3). Steals — 10 (Taylor 4, Phipps 2, Neitzel 2). Blocked shots — 2 (Taylor 2). Team fouls — 17. Fouled out — None.
Winterset — 11 17 30 49
Creston — 8 29 48 79