MONROE — The crowd inside the Prairie City-Monroe gymnasium was smaller than normal Monday night.
Longtime PCM boys basketball coach Fred Lorensen said it might be his program’s fault. The Mustangs just haven’t been competitive enough against perennial power Pella Christian to give the fans a reason to want to attend the annual non-conference game.
A big effort by the Mustangs may change that a bit though.
PCM put together a strong defensive performance and a balanced offensive effort that pushed the Mustangs to a 63-57 home victory.
“If you beat Pella Christian, you know you beat somebody good. That’s a big win for us,” Lorensen said. “This series hasn’t been a rivalry the last few years. They have kicked us pretty good the last two or three years. To make this a true rivalry, you have to share some wins once in a while.”
It was the first win for PCM over its highway rival since Dec. 9, 2013. Pella Christian won the second meeting in postseason play that year and had taken the last three regular season meetings.
The average margin of defeat in those three wins for the Eagles was 24 points.
“We haven’t beat them in a while,” said junior Andrew Van Ryswyk, who finished with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds in the win. “We wanted to do this last year but didn’t get it done. We definitely came out ready to play tonight.”
Van Ryswyk was one of three Mustangs to score in double-figures but four others put in at least four points.
Senior Elijah Sperfslage and junior Reed Worth each scored 13 to lead the way. Worth also finished with four rebounds and three assists and Sperfslage pulled down three boards.
However, as good as the offense was, the defense was the difference. PCM was active in passing lanes, active and aggressive on the glass and handed the Eagles a third straight loss to begin the season.
Pella Christian, last year’s Class 2A state runner-up, is 0-3 for the first time in more than a decade.
“Coach has stressed defense more this year,” Van Ryswyk said. “We have been really hustling, and the lineups are getting changed up a lot so we can go hard and get breaks.”
Lorensen stuck with his 10-man rotation and got good production from his bench for the second straight game.
Led by sophomore Derek Brown’s six points, the bench contributed 13 points on the night.
Brown also had five rebounds, and PCM (2-0) out-rebounded Pella Christian 35-24.
“We put our second group in there, and I wanted to leave them in there for a few minutes to give our starters a rest, but I ended up not being able to take them out,” Lorensen said. “They were playing too well. That’s huge for us.”
Pella Christian led 12-11 after one quarter, and the Eagles went up 22-17 in the second quarter following a 3-pointer by Dan Jungling.
After the Eagles went ahead 27-21, PCM ended the quarter on an 11-3 run.
Sperfslage scored four during that stretch, and Brown converted a three-point play to get his team within one. PCM led 32-30 at halftime.
The game stayed close in the third quarter. PCM led by five on two separate occasions, but the Eagles (0-3) trimmed the deficit to one after three quarters.
Senior Dayton Boell provided the Mustangs with a lift early in the fourth. He scored all four of his points on the first two possessions of the period, and it gave PCM a 47-42 lead. A putback by junior Isaac Telfer and a pull up jumper by sophomore Jason Stafford extended the lead to nine.
“The bench was big. If we had to play only five guys tonight, we would have been hurting,” Lorensen said.
The Eagles didn’t go away though. They hit a pair of 3-pointers to close the gap to three, but Van Ryswyk answered one of those treys with a 3-pointer of his own. He then made it five straight when an acrobatic tip in found the bottom of the net to give the Mustangs an eight-point cushion.
“I am not really sure how it went in, but it counts so I will take it,” Van Ryswyk said.
Lorensen expects Van Ryswyk to hit those kind of shots.
“That’s what he does. He’s a really good shooter,” Lorensen said. “He answered their 3-pointer with a 3-pointer so that was big. And the tip in was just him making a great effort play. That’s how we need to play.”
Jungling answered the bell with another Pella Christian 3-pointer and then Jake Pringle went 2-for-2 at the free-throw line to bring his team to within three with 1:24 to play.
Worth answered Pringle’s free throws with a three-point play with 1:02 left. The Mustangs hit four free throws in the final minute to close out the win.
Lorensen also called four timeouts in the final minute to make sure his players were on the same page.
“We haven’t worked on a lot of end-of-the-game stuff yet so we wanted to make sure we were on the same page,” Lorensen said. “It was mainly to calm us down and keep us focused on what we had to do next.”
Pella Christian 12-18-12-15 — 57
PCM 11-21-11-20 — 63
Pella Christian (FG/3pt-FT-F-TP) — Cole Webster 3/2-1-1-10, Dan Jungling 4/4-0-3-12, Lucas Bandstra 1-0-1-2, Jayden Huisman 1-1-1-3, Jake Pringle 0-4-5-4, Jack Vermeer 3/2-0-2-8, Treven Caldwell 0-0-2-0, Brett Roose 1-1-0-3, Josh Van Gorp 2-0-1-4, Alex Huisman 3-5-3-11. Totals 18/8-13-19-57.
PCM (FG/3pt-FT-F-TP) — Elijah Sperfslage 4/1-4-4-13, Jason Stafford 1-0-2-4, Reed Worth 4-5-2-13, Dayton Boell 2-0-4-4, Nick Dredge 0-1-0-1, Jackson Thomas 1-0-3-2, Noah Lanphier 2/1-0-1-5, Andrew Van Ryswyk 5/1-1-3-12, Derek Brown 2/1-1-0-6, Isaac Telfer 2-1-2-5. Totals 23/4-13-21-63.