2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
CEDAR RAPIDS—Hitting eight straight free throws in the final minute, the Central College men’s basketball team did what it does best Wednesday, win a close game, holding off Coe College 74-67.
Forward Loren Liming (senior, Ames, Gilbert HS) posted his ninth double-double with 20 points and 11 boards after a slow start. Forward Mark Holan (senior, Fontanelle, Nodaway Valley HS) had 19 points and five boards while guard Miguel Ley (senior, San Antonio, Texas, Judson HS) added 10 points and three assists while center Zach Cooper (senior, Johnston) had seven boards.
In notching their seventh straight win, the Iowa Conference champs improved to 20-4 overall and 13-2 in the league with one regular-season game remaining. It’s Central’s first 20-win season since a 20-5 campaign in 1978-79.
The Dutch, in their first game since wrapping up their 16th title a week ago, were facing the last-place team but nearly every Central game has had its anxious moments and Wednesday was no exception. After building a 45-31 lead with 15:39 left, Central saw Coe (4-20 overall, 1-14 conference) storm back with a 19-6 run and the Kohawks later grabbed a 55-53 lead with 6:33 left. They were still up 59-57 with 3:36 remaining, but a Liming bucket and back-to-back 3-pointers by Justin Madsen (senior, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) and Ley sparked an 11-0 run.
That seemingly put the game away with Central on top 68-59 with 55 seconds left. But Coe scored six straight points without the Dutch even getting the ball across halfcourt and it was 68-65 with 20 seconds left. But the Central defense stiffened and Cooper, Holan and Liming combined to hit six free throws in the last 13 seconds.
Coe outshot Central 43.9 percent to 41.0 percent but Central held a 41-33 rebounding advantage.
“I didn’t think we were as good as we have been,” coach Mike Boschee said. “We weren’t as good defensively. Give Coe credit. They played well. Their big guys hit five 3-pointers and really spread us out. But give our guys credit, too. When it was crunch time, we hit a couple of big 3s and we made our clutch free throws.”
Ley recorded his 300th career assist, placing him second on Central’s all-time list and he upped his career scoring total to 1,480. He’s just 18 points behind Tosh Dillinger (1996-2000) for second on the career charts. Ley is also sixth in career 3-point baskets with 135.
It will be Senior Day at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium Saturday as the Dutch play their regular-season finale, taking on Cornell College. It’s a women’s-men’s doubleheader with the women’s game starting at 2 p.m. and the men’s game at 4 p.m. Cornell is 15-9 overall and 9-6 in the conference after pulling out a 54-53 win at Luther Wednesday. Central held off the Rams 60-54 at Mount Vernon Jan. 13.
“It was good to play again after a week off,” Boschee said. “We’re still just trying to get better. Hopefully we’ll have a couple of good practices and come back with a good game on Saturday.”
A video Webcast and live stats for both Saturday games will be available through the Central athletics Web site at www.central.edu/athletics.