On one hand, the Muscatine High School boys' basketball team came into Mississippi Athletic Conference action Tuesday night looking for its first win after dropping the opening four contests.
On the other hand, Bettendorf walked onto its home court just happy to be playing its long-awaited season opener as the combination of online-only learning and a pair of positive COVID-19 tests delayed the Bulldogs' debut until the first week of 2021.
Looking to take advantage of the hosts' rust, the Muskies reeled off the first 17 points of the evening and held a 15-point lead after the first quarter. From there, however, the Bulldogs battled back with a strong second period, and fought tooth and nail the rest of the way before Muscatine used a final kick to secure a 51-42 victory.
"I told the team that this is a frustrating spot for me to be in," said Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark. "These are the circumstances of the world we're living in, but three consecutive practices were not going to prepare us for this game as well as we coaches would have liked. At the same time, these guys deserved to get a game in."
Down 21-6 after the opening quarter, the Bulldogs got in a flow as junior Tynan Numkena came off the bench to spark his club, scoring eight of his nine points in the second quarter, including a bucket with 7.5 seconds on the clock that brought the hosts to within 28-23 at halftime.
"Knowing that I was coming in off the bench, my role was to bring a spark and some energy. I did that, and we got back in the game," said Numkena, who also had a team-best six rebounds along with a pair of steals.
"Obviously, we were a little sluggish, with a lot of new guys coming in, and tonight was a big `Wow' moment for them. At the same time, we have a lot of returning leaders, and we can only go up from here. We're just thankful to get a game in."
While Bettendorf's players were getting their game legs underneath them, the Muskies (1-4, 1-2 MAC) took advantage with an opening 17-0 run as senior standout Noah Yahn scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the opening eight minutes. The Bulldogs did not get on the scoreboard until Maurice Wynn hit a 3-pointer with 1:16 left in the period.
"We'd had four games (prior to Tuesday), and we've been practicing a lot," said Yahn, who also tallied six rebounds and two steals. "We felt confident going in, and we did exactly what we planned to do. I believe it's up from here for us."
Battling a hip pointer, Muscatine junior point guard Braden Hufford played all but four minutes and notched 11 points and seven rebounds, with Josh Dieckman adding nine points and five rebounds and Reed Ulses adding eight points and six boards.
"We anticipated seeing a zone, we came out and hit some 3s early on, and that got us out the door quickly," said Muscatine coach John Windham, whose club nailed three of five long-range shots in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, the Muskies put the brakes on Bettendorf's momentum and opened up a nine-point lead on a Hufford bucket with 7.8 seconds on the clock. However, Carter Furness (a team-high 11 points) drained a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer, and the Bulldogs trailed just 38-32 going into the final period.
Muscatine got back up by nine in the fourth, but Bettendorf kept battling back on 3-pointers by Wynn and Cameron Figgs, the last coming with 2:44 left to close the gap to 43-39. However, the Muskies hit nine of 15 free throws to get themselves over the finish line and into the win column.
"It's a hot and cold game," Yahn said. "We just had to contend with Bettendorf's hot streaks, and come back with our own."
For Clark, just getting back to the court was a victory in itself.
"We took our lumps early with all the distractions; we had about 13 practices out of 51 attempts and were shut down 18 times," he said. "If we can play the rest of the year without being shut down again, we'll be happy with it."
Muscatine 51, Bettendorf 42
MUSCATINE (1-4, 1-2) -- Braden Hufford 3-8 3-4 11, Reed Ulses 4-5 0-2 8, Noah Yahn 5-10 3-4 15, Waker Cler 1-7 2-5 4, Josh Dieckman 3-6 3-4 9, Nick Scholz 1-2 2-4 4, Trevor Diederichs 0-1 0-0 0, Sam Emmert 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 13-23 51.
BETTENDORF (0-1, 0-1) -- Cameron Figgs 1-4 0-0 3, Maurice Wynn 2-7 0-0 6, Carter Furness 4-11 0-0 11, Darquez Hollingshed 0-2 0-0 0, Luke Carroll 0-1 0-0 0, Tynan Numkena 4-9 1-3 9, Gevez Lee-Webster 0-3 2-4 2, Landon Butler 0-0 1-2 1, T.J. Bogan 3-4 0-0 7, Ayden O'Neal 1-4 0-0 3, Ashton Westphall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-45 4-9 42.
3-point goals -- Muscatine 4-15 (Hufford 2-5, Yahn 2-5, Emmert 0-2, Cler 0-3), Bettendorf 8-25 (Furness 3-9, Wynn 2-6, Bogan 1-1, Figgs 1-2, O'Neal 1-4, Carroll 0-1, Numkena 0-1, Lee-Webster 0-1). Rebounds -- Muscatine 33 (Hufford 7, Ulses 6, Yahn 6), Bettendorf 25 (Numkena 6, Bogan 4, Furness 3). Turnovers -- Muscatine 13, Bettendorf 14. Steals -- Muscatine 5 (Yahn 2), Bettendorf 9 (Figgs 2, Numkena 2, Wynn 2). Fouls -- Muscatine 6, Bettendorf 22.
Sophomores: Bettendorf 52, Muscatine 39. Freshmen: Muscatine 49, Bettendorf 39.