By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
One year ago, the Mt. Pleasant and New London boys? basketball teams were each two games away from the state tournament, with each team playing on the same Thursday night. Flash-forward to today, and it all seems to be happening again.
The Panthers and Tigers find themselves in almost the exact same situation as last season. Mt. Pleasant will be hosting Ft. Madison once again in their quest for a substate final berth. New London, who topped Danville in last year?s district final, will look to do the same to Iowa Mennonite tonight in Mediapolis.
Mt. Pleasant fans may remember this time last year as the day when the state tournament dream almost came toppling down. The Panthers had beaten up on the Bloodhounds in both regular season games and were heavy favorites coming into the substate semifinal, much like tonight, but it took a little scratching and clawing to get the job done.
Ft. Madison outscored Mt. Pleasant 15-10 in the first quarter of last year?s substate tournament game, and led 32-26 at the half. The Bloodhounds nearly went into halftime with a double-digit lead, but Jordan Magnani spiked five late points to cut the Ft. Madison lead to six.
Mt. Pleasant grabbed the lead just before the fourth period on a shot from Jonathan Ita, and eight fourth-quarter points from Brady Sartorius helped the Panthers breathe down the stretch.
The two Southeast Conference rivals have played twice this year already, with Mt. Pleasant crusing in both games. The Panthers flew past the Hounds 62-38 in Ft. Madison, with Sartorius and Magnani combining for 38 points of their own.
The Panthers dominated the home game against Ft. Madison in late January. Mt. Pleasant outscored their SEC foes 30-6 in the first half en route to a 61-29 blowout win.
A win tonight would pit Mt. Pleasant against second-seeded Solon or third-seeded Fairfield at Muscatine on Monday, Feb. 26. The two teams will play at Solon and will tip off around the same time.
Much like the Panthers, New London had to storm back in the second half to earn their spot in the substate finals last season. The Tigers trailed rival Danville 12-9 after one quarter and 29-24 at halftime.
The Tigers dominated the second half, however, outscoring the Bears 27-9 in the final period to move on in the bracket. Graduated senior Ben Dentlinger led the way with 14 points. Mason Porter, Keontae Luckett and Alex Dentlinger each scored 10.
The Tigers will take on Iowa Mennonite, a team they took down 73-50 in the SEISC boys? shootout just 13 days ago. Buckets came easy for New London in that matchup. New London went 28-42 from the field and had five players reach double figures. Porter led the way with 20 points on 8-10 shooting.
A win tonight will advance the Tigers to play either Lynville-Sully or Montezuma in the substate final on Saturday, Feb. 24, in Oskaloosa. Due to the weather, the two teams didn?t get to play their district semifinals until last night, meaning the winner will be playing their third game in four days.
All district finals and substate semifinals are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. tonight, barring any weather concerns.