A tough season came to a close for the Muscatine Muskies on Monday night in Dubuque with a lopsided loss at the hands of Dubuque Hempstead.
The Muskies did hang in it through the opening quarter when they trailed by seven. However, the Mustangs' barrage of threes was just relentless throughout.
Hempstead kept pouring it on the rest of the game despite the big lead on its way to routing the Muskies by a final score of 87-39.
"They had 16 threes," Muscatine head coach John Windham said, then added, "I just told the kids when you can shoot the ball like they did it, makes the game a lot easier."
Easy was exactly how the game went for Hempstead. Whatever Muscatine did, the Mustangs found a way to get the Muskies' defense out of position for an open shot or a crease in the lane for something closer.
The 16 threes for Hempstead had were 15 better than what the Muskies could muster.
Windham chose to look forward following the loss, though. But not too far into the future. There's still time for improvement this season, even though the games are done.
"I thanked the seniors for their commitment and cooperation and what they did to help the program this year," Windham said, "then I told the rest of the guys we got another week and a half before the season is officially over with so we’re going to hit the gym until the very last day we can and get better.”
Any last gasp at a miracle comeback for Muscatine seemed to end late in the third quarter when Hempstead's Michael Duax, a sophomore, took off and threw down a vicious dunk in traffic. The home fans went crazy and morale for the visitors sank.
Late in the third, things got a little chippy when Hempstead senior Tanner Meier took a hard foul by Muscatine senior guard Jose Martinez driving to the basket. In the aftermath, words were exchanged and the Muskies ended up shooting technical foul shots.
Into the fourth, it didn't get any better. With 6:58 to go in the game, Elijah Herrion sank the second of two threes on consecutive trips down the court and even though the Muskies kept playing hard, not only did those threes kick in the running clock, but it marked a symbolic throw-in-the-towel moment.
Although it put up 87 points, Hempstead's scoring was remarkably balanced. Only two Mustangs scored in double figures: sophomore Cameron Davis had 14 and junior Nick Kaesbauer led with a game-high 16.
However, the lasting feeling for Muscatine will be a season of struggles that culminated in an inability to stop the opponent from hitting open shots from deep.
Windham aims to change that, or at least put opponents in a similar position.
"One of the (places of) emphasis between now and next year is to become better shooters," he said.