It was not basketball in its most beautiful style, but it was a battle royal between Marion County rivals Knoxville and Pella. That alone means that it will be a hard fought battle. It was bump and grind basketball for 32 minutes as the Lady Panthers fought off challenge after challenge by the Lady Dutch to escape with a 35-32 victory.
It was Pella that took the early lead with a 10-2 surge in the first five and one half minutes. Balance was the key with that run as five different players had baskets. Madison Naig got it started with an inside bucket and Reagan Van Wyk followed with a drive shot on the baseline. Jasmine Namminga put back a missed shot, Courtney Thompson hit from the perimeter and Faith Diers drove the left side.
But that early lead dissolved fast as the Panthers used a 10-0 run in the final two minutes of the quarter to take a 12-10 lead going into the second stanza.
Katie Keitges started the run with a pair of free throws and a three ball. Maggie Wilkins scored on the inside and Tara Uitermarkt buried a three from the corner as time expired.
The second period became a grind as both teams had trouble finding the hoop. But perhaps we could credit some tough defense by both teams for the slow down. Knoxville had a 7-3 advantage in the quarter with Wilkins scoring all seven points on a pair of breakaway baskets and a triple. Namminga scored all three Pella points on a rebound put back and a free throw.
The Panthers opened the second half with a steal by Keitges and she found Wilkins streaking to the basket for an easy layup. But Pella showed some grit as they put together a 9-0 run to take a brief 22-21 lead. Van Wyk had seven of the points on a pair of free throws, a driving layup and a long ball. Namminga hit from the inside for the other two points.
This time it was Keitges that went off on the Dutch with the final eight points of the quarter to send the Panthers into the final frame with a 29-22 lead. Keitges started the run with a shot from three point land and then added a free throw and a pair of breakaway baskets.
But again the Lady Dutch fought back to within two points at 31-29, but that would be as close as they would get as Uitermarkt and Wilkins each made a pair of pressure packed free throws to secure the win.
“We were hoping to pull out a win here,” Panther coach Jim Uitermarkt said. “We knew that rebounding would be important and Tara and Emma Dunkin gave us some big rebounds in clutch times. Pella had too many offensive rebounds in the first half, but we did a better job in the second half. They used a triangle and two defense against us, but Katie and Maggie kept their motors running and we were able to deal with it. Credit to our kids for a tough effort as we only used six players.”
Keitges led the Panthers with 15 points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists while Wilkins was also in double figures with 13 points. Namminga was the only Pella player in double digits with 12 points and she completed a double-double with 11 rebounds.
“It was a case of two good defensive teams out there tonight,” Pella coach Jerod Garland said. “That often results in points being hard to come by. Our kids followed the game plan well, but the shots just wouldn’t go down. I was pleased with our work on the offensive glass and I was proud of their hard nosed play.”
With the win the Panthers are 12-1 while Pella is 7-6 for the season.
Knoxville scoring – Maggie Wilkins 5 2-2 13, Marley McKay2 0-0 5, Tara Uitermarkt 0 2-2 2, Katie Keitges 4 5-6 15, Team 11 9-11 35. Three point goals (4) – Keitges 2, McKay 1, Wilkins 1
Knoxville rebounds (34) – Uitermarkt 10, Emma Dunkin 6, Keitges 5, Charlee Heffron 5, McKay 2, Wilkins 1.
Knoxville steals (8) – Keitges 5, Uitermarkt 1, Heffron 1, Dunkin 1.
Knoxville assists (7) – Keitges 3, Dunkin 2, Uitermarkt 1, Wilkins 1.