WELLMAN — Last season the Pekin Panthers boys basketball team played the game to go to the state tournament in Class 1A, but lost the substate final 72-65 to Springville.
This season, the Panthers are a C; ass 2A school and the road to get to state will be much tougher.
That was evident Monday against Mid-Prairie in a scrimmage that was just a half of basketball.
The Golden Hawks have long been a 2A school and are in a conference of schools that size. Pekin plays in a predominantly 1A league, the Southeast Iowa Super Conference.
Pekin took a 3-0 lead Monday on a 3-pointer from Brock Long, but consecutive buckets from Ethan Kos gave Mid-Prairie a lead it never relinquished on the way to a 44-28 score over Pekin.
The chance to play against players other than themselves was the best part of the night for both teams, regardless of the outcome.
“I thought we played hard and had some fun,” Pekin head coach John Swanson said. “We saw the size and speed that a good 2A program will have.”
It is also a good way to see how certain offenses, defenses or presses work. Mid-Prairie applied its press after the first couple of possessions.
“We are a running team and that’s the kind of game our kids are best at,” Mid-Prairie head coach Daren Lambert said. “We will try to push the tempo even more this year.”
While the Panthers struggled rebounding and guarding dribble handoffs, those are two things Swanson said the team did not work on.
“We talked about a press for five minutes, so I thought we handled it OK with our main group,” Swanson said. “It showed us some things we want to work on but that’s why you play it.”
Kos finished the half of play with 11 points. Carter Harmsen led all scorers with 14 points, Harmsen connected on three shots from downtown. Matching that 3-point output was sophomore teammate Alex Bean, who totaled all nine of his points from deep. Will Cavanagh scored eight, hitting one triple. Luke Boyse scored a bucket.
Pekin did not match Mid-Prairie’s seven 3-pointers, hitting four. Brady Millikin drained a pair on his way to a team-leading 10 points. Luke Long connected on one and he and Brock long each finished with five points. Chandler Stull had four points. Brayden Sobaski and Brady Latcham contributed a bucket each.
The night’s action was highlighted by good passing, which was a privilege to see so early in a season that has not officially started. An especially good connection was a Harmsen pass to Kos for the first Golden Hawk points.
Williamsburg and West Branch played a half before the Pekin/Mid-Prairie contest. West Liberty and Clear Creek-Amana were scheduled to participate but were unable to.
“They are 100 percent remote learning, so they cannot play sports,” Mid-Prairie athletic director Tyler Hotz said.
Mid-Prairie is scheduled to play at West Liberty Dec. 1.
Pekin’s first game is also Dec. 1 when it hosts Winfield-Mount Union.