2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA—It seldom comes easily for this Central College men’s basketball team and it was a struggle again Wednesday night, but the Dutch muscled their way to their first Iowa Conference championship in 15 years, rallying for a 69-59 victory over Loras College.
Central (19-4 overall, 12-2 conference) did it on the coldest of shooting nights, missing all 13 of its 3-point tries as well as several early lay-ins, but another fierce defensive effort and 27 points from forward Loren Liming (senior, Ames, Gilbert HS) helped the Dutch gain their first win over Loras in the teams’ last 18 meetings.
“I never thought we’d win a game going 0-for-13 on 3-pointers, but defense, good rebounding and teamwork were able to get it done for us,” coach Mike Boschee said.
The Central win, combined with Simpson College’s 83-80 upset of Buena Vista Univ. Wednesday gives the Dutch of the outright title, the program’s 16th crown and the first for Boschee, who inherited a 5-21 club when he took over in 2003-04.
“We’re excited for the fans of Central basketball and all of our alumni who follow us,” Boschee said. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m very happy we could get it done tonight.”
It didn’t start like a championship night. The only Central buckets in the first seven minutes were dunks by Liming and forward Mark Holan (senior, Fontanelle, Nodaway Valley HS), who posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Dutch trailed by as many as seven points and were down 24-17 with 6:29 left, but they clawed within 31-28 at intermission.
Then after falling behind 33-28, the Dutch ran off 10 unanswered points for a 38-33 lead. Loras evened the score at 43-43 at the 10-minute mark, before Central delivered a decisive 13-3 blow.
“I thought early we wanted it so bad that offensively, it affected us,” Boschee said. “But offense is intellectual and defense is more about effort and I thought our defense was outstanding. We made very few mistakes. And we outrebounded a great rebounding team.”
Holan was the game’s top rebounder while guard Miguel Ley (senior, San Antonio, Texas, Judson HS) had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Central shot 38.6 percent but limited Loras to 36.5 percent shooting and outrebounded the Duhawks 43-36.
“I think the guys are very happy with where we are,” Boschee said. “Winning the conference is one of the goals we set for the year. But the season isn’t finished. There’s a lot of basketball yet to be played. We’re going to come back and work hard and get ready for our next opponent.”
That opponent is Coe College, but first Central has a weekend off. The Dutch then travel to Cedar Rapids Wednesday to meet the Kohawks in a women’s-men’s twinbill, with the women’s game at 6 p.m. and the men’s contest at 8 p.m. Coe waged a tight contest at Central Jan. 9 before the Dutch pulled out a 62-50 win. Coe is 3-19 overall and 1-12 in the league after falling at Wartburg Wednesday, 90-83.