The gym was nearly empty, about 15 minutes after Creston's season-opening game against Glenwood here Friday night.
Jay Wolfe reached in a Tupperware container for a homemade cookie that teammate Cooper McDermott was passing around.
Wolfe earned his cookie. The 6-foot-4 junior poured in 21 points after halftime — 26 for the game — along with a team-high 11 rebounds in the Panthers' 62-53 overtime victory.
"Early I had a little pregame jitters," said Wolfe, after his first varsity start. "In the second half we all started getting in a better rhythm. Glenwood is a solid Hawkeye 10 team, so it's a good start for us."
It was the unveiling of a new Panther team, after graduating nine seniors last year. Only Wolfe and shooting guard Brandon Phipps had extensive varsity experience, while point guard Cole Thompson had been a part-time player.
On Friday, 6-5 senior Trey Benson and 6-4 Alex Nielsen started in the post. Phipps and Wolfe were on the perimeter with Thompson at the point.
Nielsen finished with 12 points and five rebounds, while Phipps and Thompson netted nine and eight points, respectively. Junior guard McClain Haines was a spark off the bench with seven points.
As a team, Creston outscored Glenwood 20-11 at the free throw line, finishing 20-of-30 for 67 percent.
Glenwood was one of the top projected teams in the Hawkeye 10 this season, returning 6-4 forward Corey Bertini and 5-11 guard Braden Wheeler to the starting lineup, and senior guard Gage Shatava with extensive varsity experience.
Add 6-7 center Drew Konfrst and 6-8 Jacob Lewis inside, and the Rams displayed a physical presence against the inexperienced Panthers.
"They had a really good JV team last year and then you have those 6-7 and 6-8 guys," said Creston coach Billy Hiatt. "So, yeah, this is a great win for our guys. The workouts we've done in the weight room have paid off. Coach (Anthony) Donahoo has done a great job of getting us ready, physically."
Hiatt also praised the likes of Benson, Nielsen, Wolfe and reserve Jake Miller for their consistent inside defense, limiting the Rams' opportunities around the basket.
"Coach (Michael) West is in charge of our posts, and that's the best post defense I've seen us play in a while," Hiatt said. "We were fronting and moving around on them. Briar Evans was really good at that last year, and our guys tonight just carried that through."
Glenwood coach Curt Schulte said his team went away from its physical advantage, which especially proved to be a problem when Bertini fouled out with a team-high 15 points with 2:30 left in overtime.
"He's kind of our go-to man, so that hurt," Schulte said. "I think Creston played well down in the post, but in the second half we got some better looks and we kind of went away from that. We were hoping to stick with it."
Creston held a 22-16 halftime lead in a rugged, physical defensive battle.
"Nothing was coming easy," Schulte said. "This was two teams just getting after each other, defensively."
The margin was similar (32-27) entering the fourth quarter, but the Rams went on a run to take a 39-37 lead with four minutes to play.
During the next minute Wolfe sank a field goal and 3-pointer to push the Panthers in front 44-40. But, again, that lead didn't hold up. Lewis scored inside to tie it 46-46 with 35 seconds left.
Nielsen's shot was off the mark at 2.7 seconds. Glenwood rebounded, but Phipps stole the pass near midcourt. A desperate attempt for a timeout by Hiatt went unheeded, sending the game into overtime.
Aggressive drives to the basket paid off for the Panthers in the extra four-minute session, as Wolfe's two free throws and a drive in the lane lifted the hosts to a 56-50 lead with just over a minute to play. Thompson, Wolfe and Phipps finished the scoring at the free throw line as Glenwood fouled to stop the clock and gain possession.
"We were being strong with the ball and getting to the free throw line, which is a big emphasis with coach Hiatt this year," Wolfe said. "On defense our backside help and rotations were good. We're trying to help each other out and play good team basketball."
Glenwood falls to 0-2, having opened with a 59-57 overtime loss to Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson. Creston starts a busy week Tuesday at Shenandoah, followed by a road trip to Atlantic Friday and game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena against ADM (Adel) preceding an Iowa Energy NBA 'D' League game. Tickets are available at the high school activities office.
GLENWOOD (53) — Corey Bertini 5 4-4 15, Jacob Lewis 5 2-3 12, Gage Shatava 4 0-0 10, Dylan Stouder 1 5-6 7, Cole Kennedy 3 0-0 7, Braden Wheeler 1 0-0 2. Totals — 34 11-13 25 53. 3-point goals — 4 (Shatava 2, Bertini 1, Kennedy 1). Team fouls — 25. Fouled out — Wheeler, Bertini.
CRESTON (62) — Jay Wolfe 6 10-13 26, Alex Nielsen 5 1-6 12, Brandon Phipps 3 3-5 9, Cole Thompson 2 4-4 8, McClain Haines 2 2-2 7. Totals — 18 20-30 62. 3-point goals — 6 (Wolfe 4, Nielsen 1, Haines 1). Rebounds — Wolfe 11, A. Nielsen 5. Assists — Wolfe 2, Phipps 2, Thompson 2. Steals — Thompson 3, A. Nielsen 2. Team fouls — 16. Fouled out — None.
Glenwood — 8 16 27 46 53
Creston — 9 22 32 46 62
Creston led 12-11 after one quarter, but the Glenwood JV pulled away in the second half to a 57-43 victory over Creston.
Christian Groumoutis scored 14 ponts for the Panthers and Connor Weist led the Rams with 15.
"It was a good first game to see our guys in a competitive situation," Creston coach Michael West said. "We need to box out a little better, and they were getting some fast break points on us."
Creston plays at Shenandoah on Tuesday.
Creston (43) — Christian Groumoutis 14, Sam Hartsock 9, Cooper McDermott 9, Jake Miller 6, Brandon Jones 4, Nick Walsh 3, McClain Haines 2, Chris Foster 2. 3-point goals — Hartsock 1, McDermott 1. Free throws — 7-16. Halftime score — Glenwood 28, Creston 24.
Glenwood (57) — Connor Weist 15, Ridge Fisher 14, Wyatt Schulz 9, Drake Harrington 5, Ryan Phillips 5, Carter Von Essen 4, Kyle Murtfeld 3, James Fuller 2. 3-point goals — Schulz 2, Phillips 1, Murtfeld 1, Fisher 1. Free throws — 10-19.
Glenwood got out to a 22-8 lead on the way to defeating Creston freshmen Friday, 46-24.
"They got in the (free throw) penalty too quick," said Creston coach Anthony Donahoo. "In the fourth quarter we started playing better and moving the ball downcourt, running our lanes."
Creston freshmen are idle until playing at Atlantic on Friday.
Creston (24) — Cody Crawford 9, Seth Thompson 6, Gavin Woods 3, Deaven Reese 2, Brenden McDowell 2, Ben Irr 2. 3-point goals — Crawford 1. Halftime score — Glenwood 22, Creston 8.
Glenwood (46) — Mavrick Decker 8, Dalian Melgoza 8, Jake Clark 6.