CLINTON, Iowa – The game was there for the taking for the Muscatine boys basketball team.
Down two with just over a minute remaining in a road game against Clinton, sophomore Noah Yahn was unable to get a contested shot at the basket to fall and sophomore Josh Dieckman’s follow rolled off the rim, too.
Yahn fouled out on the ensuing Clinton possession and the River Kings forced a Muskie turnover after hitting one free throw to send the Muskies home with a 52-45 loss.
“Yes, it did,” coach John Windham said when asked if Muscatine’s inexperience showed late in the game. “We’re still making the decisions at the wrong time when we need to make right decisions."
There were positives for the Muskies, though. They found the second scorer they’ve been searching for in the four games thus far in Nate Diercks. The senior knocked down five shots from beyond the arc and finished with a team-high 17 points.
“When he gets his feet set on his jump shot, it’s going in,” Windham said of Diercks. “(He) had a helluva game tonight. He knocked down some 3s, which we needed because somebody else has to step up for us.”
Yahn, the Muskies' leading scorer on the season, finished with 15 points.
Both Yahn and Diercks propelled Muscatine (0-4, 0-2) to a 16-point first quarter. However, Clinton kept pace and tied the game after one with a 3-pointer by Frederick Williams.
“The first quarter we came out and played aggressively,” Windham said. “Offensively we’re now starting to come out and get what we want to do. We make the passes we want to make.”
However, Windham felt the team fell back on old habits in the second quarter but still managed a 28-27 lead at halftime thanks to scrappy play by a pair of senior posts.
“This is one of the better games Cooper Zeck has played this year,” Windham said. “Tyree Williams played a helluva game (too).”
After outscoring Muscatine by three in the third period, Clinton’s LJ Henderson opened the fourth with two of his game-high 18 points. The River Kings rattled off the first eight points of the quarter and held Muscatine scoreless in the opening four minutes of the period while taking a 46-37 lead.
“I will say this,” Windham remarked, “they’re listening and doing what we want them to do. I said of we can take a couple charges on No. 5 the game will change. Gabe (Mulder) and Nate (Diercks) both took a charge, and he comes out and we have a chance. We made a little bit of a run.”
Indeed, a pair of free throws by Zeck and five points from Diercks pulled the Muskies within two, 47-45, with two minutes remaining. However, Clinton would score the final five points to send Muscatine home with a loss.
“We’re hesitant on making some of the right decisions,” Windham said. “But the takeaway from tonight is we’re taking steps forward.”