Terra Ceia upended in second half

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2018

GREENVILLE — Terra Ceia found itself with another 20-win season and a berth in the NCISAA 1-A state playoffs — that all despite a new coach and a bevy of underclassmen playing significant minutes.

The Knights hung with Greenville’s John Paul II for 16 minutes. Their defense clamped down after conceding 30 points in the first quarter. Omarion Blount, Matt VanStaalduinen and Johannes VanEssendelft combined for 17 in the second quarter to help close the deficit to 39-37 at the break.

But it was apparent that Terra Ceia ran out of steam. Dyquanis Wilkins had two baskets in tight — including a dunk — sandwiched between a pair of free throws as the Saints notched the first 10 points of the second half. They ran away from there, earning a 103-67 win to end Terra Ceia’s season.

“You could tell we were gassed at halftime,” coach Stan Allen said. “They had a lot of reserves. Our bench was limited. … We tried to keep it up. But, as a coach, I saw how worn out they were. They saw how tired we were and they stepped it up.”

John Paul II poured in 26 points in the third quarter. Jordan Yarrell’s 3-point barrage led the way while Wilkins kept taking what he wanted inside. The Knights were outmatched in the post as Alex VanStaalduinen gave up a few inches to the Saints’ big men.

VanStaalduinen was effective in notching 16 points, but he struggled to contain much on the defensive end.

“He showed he could play with the big boys,” Allen said.

It took the Knights nearly three minutes to find their first basket of the second half. Gunner Couch was sidelined with an ankle injury, which took away some of their firepower. But even with the likes of Blount, VanEssendelft and Matt VanStaalduinen, they were forced to take less-than-desirable shots.

“You can’t shoot over them. That took a lot of our 3s away,” Allen said. “I thought we ran with them pretty well. We took it to the hoop. The boys played good, but they shot the lights out in the second half. We were worn down.”

The Saints ended the third on an 8-2 run thanks to a four-point play by Yarrell. That put them ahead, 65-47, with just eight minutes to go.

John Paul II put the finishing touches on the game in the fourth. The biggest statement saw Samage Teel lob a ball toward the hoop on a fast break. Wilkins grabbed it and slammed it down, much to the joy of the home fans.

It wasn’t the way Terra Ceia wanted to end the season. However, with three rising sophomores and two rising juniors likely back next season, there’s a lot of optimism within the program.