MASON CITY — Saturday afternoon in the NIACC gym, the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura boys basketball team got a good look at the kind of team it has the potential of becoming.
Squaring off with defending Class 1A state champion Grand View Christian, which has back most of its pieces from that title-winning team, the Cardinals hung in shot for shot, but ultimately came up short in a 76-69 loss. Even after the result, the Cards were able to put in perspective what a performance like this could do down the road.
“They’re a great team and we played with them,” GHV senior Ryan Meyers said. “It showed us that we can compete with any team in the state.”
The Thunder were one of the top-scoring teams in the state a year ago, and they’re back on that trajectory this season. If GHV was to have a chance Saturday, it had to match that output, something it's not quite used to doing.
The way Saturday’s game started had the Cards on their heels, but they never backed down.
The Thunder came out with a 28-point first quarter which saw them drill 6 of 8 3-pointers on the way to a 28-19 lead after 1. What the Cards were most proud of was what happened in the ensuing quarter.
With the help of Meyers and fellow senior Nick Joynt, GHV clawed its way back into the game and trailed by four at halftime. Meyers scored 11 of his 20 first-half points in the second, and Joynt added seven of his own in the quarter.
“I think that was the best part of the whole night – to see a team that can’t miss for awhile and it looks like game over, but these kids didn’t think that and we kept plugging away two-by-two playing our game and getting after it,” GHV coach Joe Albertson said.
The momentum carried into the third quarter when GHV took its first lead of the game, up 45-43 with 5:37 left in the quarter. Grand View Christian responded with its leading scorer Grant DeMeulenaere, who was held to three points in the first half, scoring the next nine points for the Thunder, which led 59-56 after three.
GHV brought the game within one point (59-58) on a James Betz tomahawk dunk early in the fourth, but Grand View Christian answered right back to build back up a lead it would not let go of the rest of the way.
The Thunder had all five of their starters score in double figures with DeMeulenaere and Mach Nyaw leading the way with 19 apiece. Arturo Montes added 13, Sam Glenn scored 12 – all of which came in the first quarter – and Bryce Cobb finished with 11.
“A team that can shoot outside like they do, it’s hard to defend,” Meyers said. “I mean, you can’t really defend three feet beyond the arc, you just have to give all you’ve got every play and try to close out.”
The Cardinals, however, walked out with their heads held high because of how they played offensively.
Forced to change their style a bit with the way Grand View Christian runs its offense, and the extended zone defense it plays on defense, GHV flourished.
Meyers led the way with a game-high 24 points, Joynt scored 19 and Betz had 15.
“They (the Thunder) play at a different level and you just have to get to that level to compete,” Albertson said. “I think that takes us to the next part of our season. If we can play that level, we should do pretty well.”