Panthers hold off surging Mustangs

The Creston boys survived a scare Friday from a team it routed 94-67 in early December.

An improved Shenandoah team under first-year coach Jason Shaffer trailed just 34-32 at halftime and took a 40-37 lead early in the third period.

Then a flurry of transition layups off of steals and active offensive rebounding triggered a 12-0 Creston run for a 56-45 Panther command in the final minute of the quarter.

Creston survived a 3-point shooting binge in the fourth quarter to hold off the Mustangs, 70-68.

“They’ve been playing real well. He (Shaffer) has them going in the right direction,” Creston coach Billy Hiatt said.

Coming off an upset win over a ranked Carroll Kuemper team that knocked off Harlan Friday for the second time this season, the Panthers found themselves in a dogfight with a sharp-shooting Shenandoah team.

“We were on that high from beating Kuemper,” Hiatt said, “and we talked about how they are playing well. They fought hard tonight. I’m just glad to get a W.”

Shaffer, whose team falls to 10-7 overall and 4-4 in the Hawkeye 10, said the Mustangs exhibited qualities he’s been trying to instill in his initial season at the helm. The Shenandoah Middle School principal has previous experience coaching in the Omaha area.

“It’s a culture thing,” Shaffer said. “We want to come out and play hard the entire game. Play defense for 32 minutes, no matter what the score is. We gave ourselves a chance against a good team on the road.”

Creston improved to 9-7 overall. At 6-3, the Panthers are tied for fourth place in the conference with the Glenwood team they meet Tuesday on the Rams’ court. It is a non-conference game, as Creston opened the season with a 62-53 conference win over the Rams.

“It’ll be a tough game,” Hiatt said. “They are in our district with Atlantic and Winterset. There’s a good chance it could be our second game, if we win the first one.”

Friday’s contest was also much tougher than many might have expected. The big 12-0 run was erased rapidly by three Shenandoah 3-pointers. By making eight 3-pointers, the Mustangs nearly overcame Creston’s 20-4 scoring advantage at the free throw line.

A Shenandoah steal and layup gave Shenandoah a momentary 66-65 lead with 55 seconds left.

Then Jay Wolfe, who led the Panthers with 25 points, made a driving basket and free throw for a three-point play. Shenandoah missed from the field, and Wolfe was fouled on the rebound, leading to another free throw to make it 69-66.

Payden Anderson’s driving basket for Shenandoah cut it to a one-point margin again, but Creston guard Brandon Phipps was fouled with 17 seconds left. He made the first charity shot and missed the second, leaving it at 70-68.

On the ensuing Mustang possession, the ball was knocked out of bounds with 2.7 seconds left, giving the visitors one more chance at a tying or winning shot.

Sophomore forward Makonn Anderson fielded the inbounds pass and launched a shot from the corner that came up short, leaving the Mustangs three points shy of their seventh win in their last nine games.

Cole Thompson and Alex Nielsen each scored 14 points for Creston. Wolfe had nine rebounds, and Nielsen and Thompson each grabbed six. Thompson also provided five steals and three assists in the winning effort.

Anderson led Shenandoah with 22 points.

SHENANDOAH (68) — Makonn Anderson 10 2-2 22, Payden Anderson 8 2-4 21, Michael Cisneros 4 0-0 12, Jackson Baker 4 0-0 8, Austin Fichter 1 0-0 3. Totals — 28 4-6 68. 3-point goals — 8 (Cisneros 4, Payden Anderson 3, Fichter 1). Team fouls — 26. Fouled out — Cisneros.

CRESTON (70) — Jay Wolfe 7 8-10 25 Alex Nielsen 5 4-8 14, Cole Thompson 5 4-6 14, Cole Crawford 2 1-3 7, Brandon Phipps 1 3-4 5, Christian Groumoutis 1 0-0 3, McClain Haines 1 0-2 2. Totals — 22 20-33 70. 3-point goals — 6 (Wolfe 3, Crawford 2, Groumoutis 1). Rebounds — Wolfe 9, Nielsen 6, Thompson 6, Benson 3, Groumoutis 2.  Assists — Wolfe 3, Thompson 3, Phipps 2, Benson 2. Steals — Thompson 5, Benson 2. Blocked shots — Wolfe 2, Benson 1. Team fouls — 10. Fouled out  — None.

Shenandoah — 19 32 48 68

Creston — 21 34 56 70

JUNIOR VARSITY

Creston got off to a 17-8 lead on the way to beating Shenandoah’s JV Friday, 80-58.

Christian Groumoutis led three Panthers in double figures with 21 points. Cooper McDermott tallied 17 and Sam Hartsock finished with 11.

“We were playing unselfish. We got out in transition well, and that was when Christian was getting a lot of his points,” said Creston coach Michael West, whose team improved to 8-5.

Creston (80) — Christian Groumoutis 21, Cooper McDermott 17, Sam Hartsock 11, Brandon Jones 8, McClain Haines 8, Chris Foster 5, Jake Miller 4, Ryan Kucera 3, Nick Walsh 3. 3-point goals — Groumoutis 1, Hartsock 1, McDermott 1, Kucera 1, Walsh 1. Free throws — 17-24. Halftime score — Creston 39, Shenandoah 31.

Shenandoah (58) — Issaih Reed 12, Ryan Ruzek 9, Steven Martin 9, Jake Cerven 7, Zachary Dudley 6, Spencer Rice 4, Dalton Stoaks 3, Alexander Goodell 3, Jordan Miller 2, Devon Perkins 2, Jared Blake 1. 3-point goals — Reed 3, Ruzek 3, Stoaks 1, Goodell 1, Cerven 1Rice 1, Martin 1. Free throws — 9-16.