After trailing Muscatine at home after the first quarter of action, the Pleasant Valley boys basketball team seemed to need a spark to get going.
Spartans sophomore forward Jacob Townsend gave his team just what it needed.
Townsend brought some defensive intensity and an attacking mentality on the offensive end in the second quarter to help jump-start PV, and the Spartans did not look back from there, eventually winning the Mississippi Athletic Conference contest 50-31 on Friday night.
The winless Muskies came ready to play, nailing seven of their first 10 shots to lead the hosts 16-12 after the first quarter. Sophomore guard Noah Yahn was on, scoring eight points in the first to give the Muskies (0-12 overall, 0-9 MAC) some momentum.
But Townsend, who did not start, checked in the second quarter, and the tide started to turn from there. Not only did he wind up scoring all 10 of the home team's points in the second quarter, but he also brought a defensive edge that his teammates picked up on. Muscatine could only muster three points in the second quarter and missed its final five goals of the half as PV led 22-19 at halftime. Townsend also pulled down five tough rebounds in the second quarter that was physical from the start.
"In the first quarter, we weren't getting around screens and (Muscatine) was getting way too many open looks," Townsend said. "Coach (Steve) Hillman told us we were flat and we needed to get going. Nobody was playing intense defense, which we pride ourselves on. Coming into the game, I just tried to energize everyone a little bit. Our defensive principles never change, but we needed to execute better and bring more energy."
Townsend brought that energy to his team, helping keep Muscatine's post players in check and clogging up the lane when the Muskies' guards tried to penetrate. Pleasant Valley also was more aggressive in its man-to-man defense, giving Muscatine little room to operate even with the ball.
"Muscatine came ready to play and in the first quarter. We kind of stood around on offense and were not ready to guard," Hillman said. "Jacob came on and really gave us a lift, especially on the boards, and gave us some extra opportunities. He also did that at Central, coming off the bench, and gave us good minutes that were really productive. He is playing with a nice level of confidence for a young guy right now."
The Muskies wound up having offensive possessions that sometimes went 30-45 seconds in the second quarter and still could not convert. Muscatine went the final 4 minutes, 51 seconds of the first half without scoring a point. That streak actually extended into the third quarter as well as the Muskies went the first 3:30 of third quarter without scoring.
Meanwhile, the hosts got some big baskets from Hunter Snyder, Cade Collier, Hayden Guenzler and freshman guard Ryan Dolphin in the third quarter to help the Spartans (7-4, 5-4) start to pull away while the Muskies struggled on the offensive end. PV led 34-23 after three quarters, and the Muskies did not seriously challenge the rest of the way.
Those 10 points for Townsend in the second quarter led PV while Snyder finished with nine points. Carter Duwa had only four points but snagged seven rebounds, including five on the defensive end for the hosts.
In the end, Pleasant Valley's aggressiveness after the first quarter led to a 32-19 edge on the glass for the game and the Spartans shot 28 free throws to just three for the Muskies.
Yahn finished with a game-high 19 points, but after his 11 points in the first half, the Spartans were able to keep the talented shooting guard in check during key stretches. Muscatine's second leading scorer, Josh Dieckman, finished with only six points and spent good chunks of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
"Defensively the last two games, we've played very good defense. We are finally starting to get that the intensity level needs to move up," Muscatine coach John Windham said. "But we still have some moments where we fall asleep and give up too many easy buckets. The kids are starting to realize that when we do run our (offensive) stuff, we can score. It's steps in the right direction."