The first round of the intra-city basketball rivalry between Pella High and Pella Christian is tonight and carries implications greater than just each team wanting to triumph over their Tulip City rivals. Both pairs of teams have positioned themselves at or near the top of the Little Hawkeye Conference, and a win tonight would likely play a key role in claiming a league title.
“It’s a goal the girls have – to be fighting for a conference title – and this is a great opportunity for us here,” says Pella High girls’ head coach Jerod Garland. “We know they [Pella Christian] have a lot of experience coming back and they have a lot of weapons – so we’ll have our hands full – but I know our girls will play hard.”
The Lady Dutch are coming off of a dominant 45-18 win over Grinnell on Tuesday and are 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the Little Hawkeye Conference. On the other bench, Pella Christian head coach Kevin Van Maanen says in terms of size and style of play, the two teams are quite similar.
“They match up very well with us, so I think it’s going to be a good ball game at their place,” says Van Maanen. “I think it’s going to come down to the team that comes out, plays relaxed, can make shots and takes care of the basketball.”
The Lady Eagles are 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference, following a 52-43 comeback victory in Oskaloosa on Tuesday night.
The boys’ game presents an exciting match-up as well, as each team has just one loss in conference play, and will be trying to put themselves in a position to challenge league front-runner Grinnell. Pella Christian boys’ head coach Larry Hessing says even though the Little Dutch are a much different squad than the one they faced last year, he expects Pella to be equally difficult.
“Those coaches over there [at Pella High] are doing an excellent job with this group. It’s also a new group, a young group that lost a lot of seniors from last year, but they’re up to the same methods in terms of pressure and good defense,” says Hessing. “That’s probably going to be the key for us; can we handle that and not turn the ball over.”
The Eagles are 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference after a hard-fought victory over Oskaloosa on Tuesday. Just as Hessing says the Eagles’ are expecting high-pressure defense, Pella High head coach Mark Core says he’s had his team focusing on putting their defense in the right places to slow down the Pella Christian attack.
“We need to get the guys – the two or three guys that are maybe on the help side – understanding that they need to move. They need to move as the ball moves, [and] we need to be in position when people catch the ball so that we’re not in a constant reactive mode,” says Core. “We would like to be able to set the tone with our defense, and the only way that’s possible is for our people to be in position.”
The Pella High boys are 4-1 in the Little Hawkeye Conference, following Tuesday’s loss to Grinnell, but are at 4-4 overall entering tonight’s game. Both games will be broadcast live on 92.1 fm KRLS, with coverage from Pella High School beginning at approximately 5:45 p.m.