A 12-point margin at the final buzzer provided little indication of the back-and-forth slugfest that ensued Friday night at Pella High School in the first match-up of the season between the Little Dutch and intra-city rival Pella Christian; though Pella did claim a 76-64 win.
Both teams made solid runs in the first half – and a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Blake Riggen pulled the Eagles to within five points by halftime – but Pella steadily gained control of the game in the second half. Grant Barrick returned from an ankle injury to assemble an electrifying 26-point performance that he credited to having extra time to observe his peers.
“I was just pumped to be back, and just sitting on the bench, I got excited,” said Barrick. “You learn so much just watching your teammates, and you can just build off of that; which helps.”
Pella head coach Mark Core said Barrick’s return performance was crucial in his team’s success.
“He could have maybe played [on] Tuesday – we chose not to. [We] had two really fine practices this week, and then tonight he came out and played a great game for us. I think that was a crucial factor, and one that we are certainly glad to have.”
Pella Christian head coach Larry Hessing also acknowledged the impact of Pella’s senior guard, and identified deficiencies for his team to address.
“Barrick really made a difference. He really made their team a lot better from what we’d seen the last two or three weeks. We need to get better in the half-court defense and in transition defense,” said Hessing. “There, late in the game, especially, we were breaking down in the half-court, where Pella High would drive, and then get some dumps and easy looks for baskets. We just weren’t rotating very well, so that is something we need to work on.”
Along with Barrick, Schyler Kane was also impressive in adding 15 points in the scoring column; and Jace Versteeg put up 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Dutch. Pella hosts Chariton on Tuesday in non-conference play.
Despite the loss, the Pella Christian boys featured four players who scored 10 points or more, led by an impressive 16-point, 8-rebound performance by Caleb Morgan. The loss bumps the Eagles down to 7-3 overall and 3-2 in the Little Hawkeye Conference. They’ll host Norwalk on Tuesday. Pella High, on the other hand, is 5-4 overall, but 5-1 in conference play.