Mustangs outlast Eagles
LE GRAND — Things didn’t look good at the beginning for the Class 2A No. 7 East Marshall boys basketball team in their 2A District 13 semifinal against Pella Christian on Thursday night.
The Mustangs were stifled by a strong zone from the Eagles, and Pella Christian dropped in four shots from behind the 3-point line early to jump out to a 14-4 lead midway through the first quarter.
While many of the East Marshall fans in attendance might have been worried, there was never a moment of doubt on the faces of the Mustang players as they methodically went about their business, finishing the quarter on a 6-0 run and building some much-needed momentum.
They would carry that momentum all the way through the second quarter until East Marshall finally took a 20-19 lead, a lead that it would never relinquish on the way to a 43-41 win over the Eagles.
Mustangs head coach Adam Bauder said, though it seemed like a tough way to start, there wasn’t a single moment he didn’t have faith in his team.
“I wasn’t worried about my team, no, never,” Bauder said, scoffing at the idea. “Last year we had slow starts quite a bit in the tournament, and if we get down the kids don’t even care about the score until the thing is over. That’s a credit to them, they are going to play and do their job and if we are struggling in one area they are going to try and fix it.”
What changed from the beginning of the game to the end was East Marshall (21-0) figuring out what Pella Christian (8-15) was trying to do. The Mustangs eventually found cracks in the Eagle zone, forcing them to switch to a man-on-man defense, and after allowing 14 points in the first five minutes they surrendered only 27 the rest of the way.
Bauder said once his team realized they could slow down the Pella Christian attack, it was just a matter of time until they took the lead back.
“That was huge to be able to get a couple of stops, they hit three 3-pointers in a row and at halftime they had 15 points from 3-point land and we were fairly confident that wasn’t going to keep up, whether they started missing or we started actually getting better closeouts,” Bauder said. “Then seeing the ball go in for us was big too.”
The first Mustang to break through the Eagle press was senior Zaine Leedom, who had eight points in the first half off of some great ball movement by his teammates. Bauder said he and the coaching staff realized Leedom was the hot hand, so they decided to ride that in the second half.
“In the second half we made a coaching decision, and don’t pretend that this is smart, but get the ball to Zaine Leedom because he was able to score,” Bauder said.
Leedom finished the night with a game-high 17 points, and his defense towards the end helped hold off a Pella Christian squad that wouldn’t quite go away. After the game, Leedom said they knew the Eagles were a tall and athletic team, so they knew it was going to be a challenge.
“We knew they would be a physical team just based off their size and athleticism, so we knew we wouldn’t be able to out-athleticism them like we can with some of the teams in our conference so we knew we just had to execute on everything we did to pull this one out, and that’s what we did,” Leedom said.
Senior Eli Anderson finished second on the team with nine points, seven of which came during the second half. When the Mustangs needed a big shot to hold off the Pella Christian attack, Anderson was able to step up and make plays, and Bauder said that’s what they expect from him every night.
“Eli had a huge three in the corner, big free throws late, had a super-tough defensive assignment like he always does, so coming up with those clutch shots is good to see from him too,” Bauder said.
With the win, East Marshall moves on to the district finals where they meet up with cross-county rival West Marshall for a game that determines who plays in the substate finals. Bauder said he knows the Trojans, and the Trojans know the Mustangs, so this third-and-final meeting of the season should be fun for all involved.
“We both know each other, we both know what we do, maybe we will try to add some stuff, I am sure they will try to add some little wrinkles, but we have to stop or slow down their outside shooting and they have to slow down our inside game and whoever does a better job at those two things will come out on top,” Bauder said. “It should be fun, East vs. West at Marshalltown, I mean you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
East and West Marshall meet in the middle at the Roundhouse at Marshalltown High School on Tuesday at 7 p.m. to determine the 2A District 13 champion.
East Marshall 43, Pella Christian 41
At Le Grand
PELLA CHRISTIAN (8-15) — Dan Jungling 2 0-0 6, Jayden Huisman 4 0-0 9, Jake Pringle 4 1-2 11, Treven Cadwell 0 0-0 0, Alex Huisman 2 0-0 4, Jase Amelse 0 0-0 0, Jack Vermeer 2 0-0 6, Brett Roose 2 0-0 5, Josh Van Gorp 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 1-2 41.
EAST MARSHALL (21-0) — Zaine Leedom 8 0-0 17, Zane Johnson 2 2-2 7, Eli Anderson 3 2-2 9, Tyler DeBondt 1 0-1 3, Logan Nicholson 2 0-4 4, Zach Finders 0 0-0 0, Jimmy Sylvester 1 0-0 3. TOTALS 17 4-9 43.
PELLA CHR. 14 5 12 10 — 41
E. MARSHALL 10 12 10 11 — 43
3-Point Goals–PC 8 (Jungling 2, Pringle 2, Vermeer 2, J.Huisman, Roose), EM 5 (Leedom, Johnson, Anderson, DeBondt, Sylvester). Total Fouls–PC 14, EM 7. Fouled Out–Vermeer.