The Knoxville Panthers traveled to Albia for a matchup with the South Central Conference Champion Blue Demons without their scoring ace and ball handler, Kieren Nichols. Nichols was sidelined by the sickness that has been sweeping through the area and he was just not able to go.
The Panthers knew what they were facing and gave it a battle in the beginning. Baskets by Spencer Hixson, Ben Olson and Mike Hudson kept Knoxville close at 9-6 with 2:41 left in the first period. But then the Blue Demons hit an 11-2 run to open up a 20-8 lead going into the second stanza.
The Blue Demons shifted into a higher gear in the second period and used a 15-4 surge to take a 35-12 lead into intermission.
The Panthers came out after the halftime break and hit some shots, but it was hard to gain any ground when the Demons would match them shot for shot.
The Panthers did get a pair of threes from Luke Keitges, a bucket and a free throw each by Olson and Hixson and a drive shot from Hudson. But a 10-2 run by Albia at the end of the third quarter put the game out of reach at 60-26 going into the final eight minutes.
“We played hard,” Panther coach Jeff Larson said. “But we just couldn’t get shots to go down. It is too bad that we depend so much on one kid, but he is a great player. We played as hard as we could, but the score doesn’t show that. We hope to get healthy and get ready for the post season. We know that there are teams in our district that we can beat.”
Olson was the lone Panther in double digits with 11 points and Hixson was next with eight. Blake Chance led the Blue Demons with 13 while Brayden Messamaker added 11 and Nathaniel Wynn chipped in with 10.
Odds and Ends
The Panthers also came up short Thursday when they traveled to Bloomfield. The Mustangs topped the Panthers 52-48 as they came up big in the fourth quarter outscoring Knoxville 16 to 8.
Nichols was again absent from the Panther lineup. Dalton Reeves had 23 points for Davis County.
The Panthers fell to 11-7 and to 8-4 in the league, dropping their final four SCC games.
Knoxville scoring vs. Albia – Ben Olson 5 1-2 11, Mike Hudson 2 1-5 5, Luke Keitges 2 0-0 6, Spencer Hixson 3 1-2 8, Keegan Cox 1 0-0 2, Team 13 3-6 32. Three point goals (3) – Keitges 2, Hixson 1.