CRESTON, Iowa — When you’ve lost 25 straight games to an opponent, you don’t let the fact that your victory won’t count in the conference standings ruin your night.
It was quite a night for the Creston boys, who nearly squandered an 18-point second-half lead before holding on for a 53-46 nonconference basketball win over Harlan before a large, boisterous crowd at the Creston gym.
“All the emotions came out in the locker room,” Creston senior Colby Taylor said. “Big win against Harlan.”
In snapping that 25-game streak in the series, Creston, rated 10th in the state in Class 3-A, improved to 6-0, while Harlan dropped to 3-1. Both teams remain 3-0 in the Hawkeye Ten Conference. Both games in the league against divisional opponents count, but only one game counts against non-divisional foes. Non-divisional opponents Creston and Harlan play twice, so only their next meeting on Feb. 12 in Harlan will count.
Creston isn’t quibbling about that for now. The Panthers used strong man-to-man defense, patient offense against a variety of Harlan defenses and outstanding team balance to notch the rare win.
“We had a little bit of a lead, and then we kind of started looking at the score clock and quit playing basketball,” Creston coach Billy Hiatt said. “But I think having some senior leadership kind of helped.”
The 6-foot-6 Taylor’s tip-in of his own miss with 3:45 left in the third quarter staked Creston to a 41-23 lead. The Panthers were still up 48-36 with 5:04 left after senior Briar Evans’ three-point play on an inbounds play.
With 4:08 remaining, Hiatt picked up a technical foul for not staying seated on the bench. Gabe Ferry hit the two free throws, starting the Cyclones’ rally.
Ferry nailed a 3-pointer with 1:32 left to cut it to 48-43, and after senior Trey Thomsen split a pair of free throws, Harlan’s Trey Lansman banked in a 3-pointer to trim it to 49-46 with 1:19 left.
Kainen Somers hit 1 of 2 for Creston to push it to 50-46 with 1:07 left and then Lansman missed a short shot. The Cyclones wasted more than 20 seconds before fouling, and after Creston missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Luke Neitzel made a steal to ice the win.
“Give Creston a lot of credit,” Harlan coach Mitch Osborn said. “They’re a good team. They’re a very strong and physical team. … We fought back and fought back, but we don’t get the ball inside enough.”
The son of former Southwestern Community College basketball coach Bill Taylor, Colby Taylor led the Panthers with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, despite facing triangle-and-two and diamond-and-one defenses against him for a good portion of the first half.
Creston finished 9-13 last year, and Taylor said his team is determined to turn the corner this season.
“I’ve been thinking about going to state for as long as I can remember,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal here.”
Thomsen added 11 points for the winners, while Evans (nine), Somers (eight) and Neitzel (seven) were just behind in the balanced attack. Neitzel and Evans grabbed seven rebounds apiece.
In a rare occurrence, only three Cyclones reached the scoring column. Ferry finished with a game-high 22, Nathan Cave added 14 and six rebounds, and Lansman finished with 10 points and nine boards.
Hiatt, in just his second year at the helm, said it was a tide-turning victory for his program.
“We’ve just got to keep getting better,” he said. “This is one of those games where you can see where you’re at, and where you need to go. It was a huge win for us.”
Harlan (3-1, 3-0) ................. 7 12 13 14—46
Creston (6-0, 3-0) ................. 14 18 11 10—53
H: Adam Juhl 0-6 0-0 0, Nate Kloewer 0-3 0-0 0, Gabe Ferry 7-9 5-6 22, Trey Lansman 4-11 1-5 10, Nathan Cave 5-10 1-1 14, Brandon Bjoin 0-0 0-0 0, Kyle Juhl 0-2 0-0 0, Jake Daeges 0-1 0-0 0, Will Lansman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-43 7-12 46.
C: Trey Thomsen 3-8 4-7 11, Colby Taylor 5-11 1-1 12, Kainen Somers 3-6 1-3 8, Luke Neitzel 3-5 1-2 7, Briar Evans 4-7 1-1 9, Caleb Thompson 1-4 0-0 3, Zach Powers 0-0 0-0 0, Cole Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Jay Wolfe 1-4 0-0 3, Ryan Cook 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-46 8-14 53.
3-point goals: H 7-22 (Ferry 3-3, Cave 3-6, T. Lansman 1-2, W. Lansman 0-1, K. Juhl 0-2, Kloewer 0-3, A. Juhl 0-5), C 5-15 (Wolfe 1-2, Somers 1-2, Taylor 1-3, C. Thompson 1-3, Thomsen 1-4, Evans 0-1). Total fouls: H 12, C 14. Fouled out: none. Technical foul: Creston bench. Rebounds: H 29 (Lansman 9), C 29 (Neitzel 7, Evans 7). Assists: H 11 (Kloewer 7), C 10 (Taylor 3). Steals: H 3 (three with 1), C 7 (Neitzel 3). Turnovers: H 15, C 10.
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