To say the Knoxville boys basketball team exhibited some swagger at home against Albia last Thursday in a snow make-up game is no exaggeration. By the time Albia’s Joe Teno dropped in the last free throw of the night with a second left to play and Albia leading 70-66, there was no swagger, just a lot of sullen Panther players.
Centerville changed everything with an astounding 66-45 win over the Panthers on Friday.
The Blue Demons entered the game needing an upset win on Knoxville’s home court to stay in contention for the South Central Conference championship. And heading into the fourth quarter, it didn’t look too good. Panther junior guard Kieren Nichols (averaging 27.2 points per game) was shredding the Blue Demon defense with ridiculously long three-point shots. Freshmen Luke Keitges and junior Spencer Hixson were spreading the Albia defense with three-point bombs from the corners.
“I was just really proud of how we kept our composure and were able to battle back down seven in the fourth,” said Coach Kevin Archer.
Tension was high from the start as there were three lead changes in the opening eight minutes. Albia dropped four shots from outside the arc, two by Jackson DeMoss while Joe Teno and Blake Chance each had one. Knoxville was able to get into the painted area, but it was a three-point goal by Spencer Hixson and a late field goal by Kieren Nichols that gave the Panthers a 17-16 advantage at the buzzer.
The second quarter began with another three by Hixson to give Knoxville a more comfortable lead and despite a three-point goal by Blake Chance the Panthers went on an 8-3 run to claim a 25-19 margin. With five minutes remaining in the period and Knoxville leading 31-24, Nate Wynn and Brayden Messamaker combined to hit a couple of three-point goals that sparked a 10-2 run by the Blue Demons. Wynn added a conventional three-point play during the run and a three-point goal by Blake Chance at the two-minute mark gave the Blue Demons their first lead of the quarter 32-31. Both teams managed a field goal in the final minute to make it 34-33 Albia at the half.
There were three lead changes and two ties in the third quarter. A three-point goal by Blake Chance put Albia in the lead 39-38 but the Blue Demons had trouble stopping Nichols. A three-point goal by DeMoss tied the game 42-42 with three minutes left in the period. Albia countered as Blake Chance began to find his brother Drew Chance for inside shots to stave off a strong final two minutes for the Panthers as they scored seven points but the Chance connection netted four points to make it 51-48 to start the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer by Nichols opened up a six-point 54-48 lead with 7:11 left. Albia came back with freshman Drew Chance and an old-fashioned three-pointer, two inside and one at the free throw line to cut the score to three with 6:25 left. Then a sharp collision occurred that caused a Panther player’s nose to explode as Albia forced a turnover.
The game was halted as blood was wiped off the floor. Brayden Messamaker drained a three, Nichols responded with a bucket and a free throw to put Knoxville up by four, then Trey Griffin hit a deep three for Albia to cut the lead to one, 58-57. Albia forced a turnover, missed a shot and Keitges hit a deep three to give Knoxville a 61-58 lead with 4:36 left.
At that point, the inside play of Drew Chance, the free throw shooting of Blake Chance and defensive toughness by the entire Albia team took over. Drew Chance scored inside after a defensive stop to tie the game at 61-61 with 3:01 left. Nichols scored his 33rd point of the game, then Blake Chance went to the line and dropped in two to put the game back into a 63-63 tie with 2:28 left. Knoxville missed a free throw attempt and Drew Chance was hammered inside and dropped in two free throws to put Albia in the lead for good. With 1:09 left, Blake Chance blocked a Nichols shot, got the ball back and was fouled converting two to put Albia up by four, 67-63.
Undeterred, Nichols drained a three to cut the lead to 67-66 with 23 seconds left. Chance was fouled again and was perfect from the free throw line giving Albia a 69-66 cushion.
With under 10 seconds left, Nichols had the ball, went for a deep three but was blocked, Joe Teno got the ball, was fouled and dropped in the game’s last point with a second left.
Blake Chance hit eight free throws down the stretch and Drew Chance hit three during the quarter to secure the victory. The Chance brothers accounted for 15 of Albia’s 22 points in the final eight minutes.
“We had so many guys step up and do their jobs,” said Coach Archer. “The guys played so hard and unselfishly. I was so happy for them because they deserved it.”
Blake Chance led Albia in scoring with 21 points, Drew Chance had 13, DeMoss 11, Wynn 10, Messamaker six, Teno four, Griffin three, and Jackson Pence two. Blake Chance had eight assists, Wynn four while Demoss, Griffin, Teno, and Drew Chance each had one.
Wynn led the team in rebounding with six, Blake Chance had four, Teno three, Drew Chance three, DeMoss three, Messamaker two, Griffin one, and Pence one. Wynn had two steals and Blake Chance one. Blake Chance had a blocked shot.
Albia moves into first place in the SCC at 11-1 with the win giving Knoxville their first loss 8-1. Knoxville suffered a second loss on Friday. Albia sits at 14-2 on the season, traveled to Fairfield on Monday and won the second round with Knoxville on Tuesday to win the SCC Championship Title. Full details in Thursday's U-R.