BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PEKIN -After failing to score for the first four minutes of the game, the HTC Crusaders came flying at the Pekin Panthers opening up a 12-5 first quarter lead only to fade in the third and suffer a 52-60 loss in the Southeast Iowa Superconference shootout.
Seniors Bailey Merschman and Nick Pothitakis kept HTC close in the first half combining for five 3-pointers while fellow senior Cory Hopper got his engines going. Hopper is averaging 19 points per game but only managed five in the first half. The second quarter started quiet with Pekin converting a bucket and HTC nailing a 3-pointer in the first minute and then both teams went quiet for the next two and a half minutes.
Pekin then went on a 12-8 run to end the first half trailing by three at 26-23. The third quarter proved to be the Crusaders undoing as the Panthers outscored HTC 16-6 in the quarter.
The Crusaders couldn’t play catch up as Pekin kept them at a safe seven to 12 point deficit throughout the quarter, despite Hopper putting up 18 in the half to finish with a team high 23.
“We had a great first quarter and a decent second quarter,” Head Coach John Hellige said after the game “But then we came out flat in the third period. Kids played hard, but weren’t able to stay focused in the 3rd quarter. That was a tough loss to a good Pekin team,” Hellige said. “Now, it’s time to get ready for the districts.”
Rounding out the scoring for the Crusaders was Merschman with 10 points, Pothitakis and Collin Thornton each had six, Connor Hellweg added 3, Milo Orton and Jack Stinson each had two for HTC.
The Crusaders fall to 10-11 on the season and face a tough Notre Dame team on Thursday on the Nikes home court. Watch for a preview of the regional match next week in the Pen City Current.
In the junior varsity match, HTC won 55-46 behind a whopping 32 points from Brant Holtkamp who went 17-18 from the free throw line.
Quentin Schneider scored 9 points, Matt Hellige added six and Reed Fehseke had five. Kyle Bredemeyer had two points and Blake Crabtree added one.