2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA— With the Iowa Conference title safely tucked away, the Central College men’s basketball team closed out an 11-0 home regular season with a 74-64 league victory over Cornell College Saturday.
Extending its winning streak to eight games, Central wrapped up the regular season with a 21-4 mark, matching the highest total in school history. The Dutch also had 21 wins in 1976-77 and 1977-78.
Central is 14-2 in the league and carries the top seed into the six-team conference tournament. The Dutch receive a first-round bye and will play in the tourney semifinals at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium at 7 p.m. Thursday. They’ll take on the winner of a Tuesday contest at Dubuque between the number four and five seeds, Dubuque and Cornell.
In Saturday’s victory, senior guard Miguel Ley (San Antonio, Texas, Judson HS) moved into second place on Central’s career scoring list with 26 points to go with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Meanwhile senior center Zach Cooper (Johnston) posted his first double-double of the year with 10 points and 13 rebounds, forward James Chapline (junior, Ogden) came off the bench to score 12 points and forward Mark Holan (senior, Fontanelle, Nodaway Valley HS) had 11.
Ley has 1,508 career points, moving past Tosh Dillinger (1996-2000) for second place on Central’s all-time list.
Playing before an enthusiastic Senior Day crowd, the Dutch roared out of the gates, jumping to a 13-0 lead and holding Cornell scoreless for nearly six minutes. Central built the lead to as many as 17 points before Cornell fired back to make it 35-28 at intermission. The Rams got as close as 60-55 with 4:08 left but Central answered with a 5-0 burst to settle the issue.
Cornell, with 6-foot-11 center Chris Handke, is one of the few teams on the schedule with a size advantage over the Dutch, making Cooper’s contributions especially significant.
“Zach was really big on the boards,” coach Mike Boschee said. “Seven offensive rebounds isn’t bad for a team and he had that many by himself. He really epitomizes the improvement shown by this team.”
Central held a 45-37 advantage on the glass. The Dutch shot just 38.7 percent from the field but limited Cornell to 36.4 percent. The Rams were just 1-of-8 from 3-point range while Central was 5-of-18.
Prior to the game, Central recognized the team’s seniors and five starters: Ley, Holan, Cooper, forward Loren Liming (Ames, Gilbert HS) and guard Justin Madsen (Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS).
“When I think about this senior class, the one word that comes to mind is improvement,” Boschee said. “They improved in a lot of ways on and off the court. They improved in maturity and making better decisions, they improved in basketball skills and they improved in leadership. They all made tremendous strides in how they carry themselves and I’m really proud of them.”
Men’s Basketball Tournament
Tuesday, Feb. 23
#6 Wartburg (14-11, 8-8 IIAC) at #3 Loras (15-10, 10-6), 7 p.m.
#5 Cornell (15-10, 9-7) at #4 Dubuque (17-8, 10-6), 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 25
Wartburg/Loras winner at #2 Buena Vista (14-11, 10-6), 7 p.m.
Cornell/Dubuque at #1 Central (21-4, 14-2), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 27
Semifinal winners, TBA