Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MOUNT VERNON - There's no question about it, there was a whole lot of fight in the underdog Mt. Pleasant Panthers on Thursday night.
Down 17 points at halftime, the Panther boys basketball team stormed back to cut the Mustangs' lead to two points in the final minutes, but Mount Vernon made every free throw down the stretch to escape with a 59-55 victory.
'They play with a lot of heart,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Eric Rawson said. 'There is a lot of fight in that dog, and they never lay down.”
Mt. Pleasant had the hot hand early. Chase Williamson poured in eight points in the first quarter and Mt. Pleasant held an early 12-8 lead, but the Mustangs crawled back to take a lead before the first horn and held a 14-13 advantage heading into the second quarter.
The second period was nothing short of disastrous for Mt. Pleasant. Mount Vernon stand out Keaton Kutcher went ballistic, nailing shot after shot to lead the Mustangs to a 30-14 second quarter. Kutcher had 23 points at halftime, and Mount Vernon led 44-27.
But the Panthers weren't finished yet.
Mt. Pleasant began to double team Kutcher in the third quarter, throwing off the Mustang offense and forcing enough mistakes to help the Panthers creep back into the game. Owen Vansickel had five points in the third, including a floater before the horn, and it was 49-38 Mustangs after three.
Mt. Pleasant put on a full-court press in the fourth quarter, and an already rattled Mount Vernon offense became even more so. The Panthers chopped at the Mount Vernon lead and had it down to two points on a couple of occasions, including 57-55 with less than 20 seconds left after Vansickel sank two free throws.
With Brevin Wilson, the heart of the Panther press, sidelined with five fouls, Mount Vernon was able to avoid coughing up the ball on its final possession. The Panthers were forced to foul with 7.6 seconds remaining, and Mount Vernon's Collin Swantz, who airballed his first free throw attempt of the night, sank two shots to put the game on ice.
Williamson and Dewon Trent led the Panthers with 15 points apiece. Vansickel scored 14. Wilson and Jack Johnson had five apiece, and Payton Hagans finished with one.
Despite his electric first half, Mount Vernon's Kutcher scored just two points in the second half to finish with 25.
Mount Vernon (17-5) will take on Davenport Assumption (17-6) In the substate semifinal. Mt. Pleasant ended its season 13-11, and although the Panthers ended the year with a loss, an emotional coach Rawson knew his squad went out with a bang.
'The heart, and soul and passion that they played with in the second half outweighs a ‘W' any day,” Rawson said.