16 Iowa Conference championships
PELLA—A 10-2 run in overtime carried the Central College men’s basketball team to a 78-76 Iowa Conference victory over Wartburg College Saturday, keeping the Dutch alone in first place.
Nothing came easily for the Dutch, who shot a frigid 28.6 percent from the floor in the first half, inadvertently tipped in a Wartburg shot, lost a last-minute lead and had a potential game-winning shot bounce out at the end of regulation.
But Central (16-4 overall, 9-2 conference) kept battling and persevered well enough to maintain a one-game lead in the frantic league race. Wartburg is 12-8 overall and 6-5 in the league. It’s the first time Central has racked up 16 wins in its first 20 games since 1978-79.
“It was the type of game where defense and rebounding kept us in it,” coach Mike Boschee said. “But we battled and fought hard enough to get the win. It seems like you have to go through some games like this and learn how to finish it out.”
Forward Loren Liming (senior, Ames, Gilbert HS) recorded his seventh double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds along with three assists and two blocks.
“Loren did a nice job,” Boschee said. “Wartburg poses some problems for him with double-teams, which makes Loren a playmaker. But I don’t think he had any turnovers off the double-team tonight.”
Guard Miguel Ley (senior, San Antonio, Texas, Judson HS) endured a tough shooting day but still pumped in a game-high 19 points with five assists, five rebounds, two steals and just one turnover.
Forward Mark Holan (senior, Fontanelle, Nodaway Valley HS) gave Central a long-range boost for the second straight outing, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 16 points to go with four assists and two steals.
“Mark Holan again stepped up for us with some key 3-pointers,” Boschee said. “It’s important for us to keep the floor balanced and both wings have been hitting from the outside to help spread the defense.”
Center Zach Cooper (senior, Johnston), averaging just 4.9 points a game, had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting while also knocking down 5-of-6 free throws. He also had eight rebounds, two blocks and two assists.
“Zach did a nice job with some clutch free throws and I thought Jack Bruns (sophomore, Story City, Roland-Story HS) came off the bench and gave us some toughness,” Boschee said.
Central trailed by as many as seven points in the first half before scratching its way to a 31-30 halftime lead. The Dutch were ahead much of the second half but never by more than five points. Leading 66-64 with 33 seconds left, a Dutch turnover gave Wartburg a chance and Mitchell Murphy tied the game at 66-66 with a pair of free throws. Ley hit two free throws with 18 seconds remaining but the Dutch gave up a lay-in by Cole Danielson with 8 seconds left, and Ley’s 15-footer bounced in and out to send the game to overtime.
After Wartburg took the overtime lead on a 3-pointer, Central got a Liming free throw and a Holan 3 to take a 72-71 lead with 3:03 left. A Wartburg bucket put the Knights up again 73-72 with 2:25 remaining but then Central got six unanswered points, including a pair of dunks by Cooper and Holan that sent an already boisterous crowd into a frenzy. A Dutch turnover after a rebound, a Knights’ 3-pointer and two missed free throws created some late anxiety but an errant Wartburg 25-foot shot attempt with 3 seconds remaining sealed the win.
Central travels to Dubuque Wednesday for a league doubleheader. The women’s game starts at 6 p.m. with the men’s game at 8 p.m. The Dutch were 76-51 winners over Dubuque at Pella Jan. 6. The Spartans, who were idle Saturday, are 13-6 overall and 6-4 in the league.