2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
VIDEO: Zach Cooper
VIDEO: Justin Madsen
PELLA—It was another night of firsts for the Central College men’s basketball team Thursday.
Scoring their first-ever Iowa Conference tournament win in 11 tries, the Dutch muscled their way to an 81-66 semifinal win over the Univ. of Dubuque. Central cracked the school season wins record in the process, improving to 22-4. Central had 21 wins in 1976-77 and 1977-78.
The league champion Dutch play host to the No. 2 seed, Buena Vista, in a 7 p.m. contest at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium Saturday. Buena Vista was a 78-72 victor over Wartburg at Storm Lake Thursday. Saturday’s winner receives the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. The 61-team tournament field will be announced Monday morning.
Placing four players in double figures, Central overcame a chilly start to rack up their highest point total in the team’s last seven outings and notched its ninth straight win. Forward Mark Holan (senior, Fontanelle, Nodaway Valley HS) poured in 22 points, two shy of his career high. Forward Loren Liming (senior, Ames, Gilbert HS) had 20 points and eight rebounds, guard Miguel Ley (senior, San Antonio, Texas, Judson HS) had 13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and just one turnover, and forward James Chapline (junior, Ogden) had 12 points.
But it was again defense that coach Mike Boschee talked about. The Dutch had eight blocks and limited Dubuque to 34.8 percent shooting. Central also held a 46-41 rebounding edge.
“Again, defense and rebounding were the story of the game,” Boschee said. “I thought we did a good job on some of their key players.”
Nearly four minutes into the game, Central trailed 2-1. The game remained tight most of the half and the Dutch were still clinging to a 25-23 advantage with 2:52 left before ending the half with a 10-1 run for a 35-24 lead. Dubuque climbed to within 46-42 with 12:41 remaining in the game, but in the next 10 minutes, Central surged to a 78-56 lead to take firm command.
“Late in the first half, we did a nice job at the free throw line to give us good lead, and that momentum carried over into the second half,” Boschee said. “When we play with aggressive intensity, we’re a tough team to handle. I thought we did that tonight.”
Defending league champion Buena Vista (15-11) is a veteran of tournament action, advancing to its ninth league final since 1999. Central split a pair of games with the Beavers this year. Buena Vista won at Storm Lake 77-68 Dec. 9, while the Dutch took the rematch at Pella Jan. 27, 77-67.
“We should have a fun atmosphere,” Boschee said. “The guys have enjoyed playing in front of the kind of crowds we’ve been getting the last half of the year. It should be a great game between two quality teams.”
And Boschee is keeping the team’s focus squarely on the opponent, and not a potential NCAA berth.
“All year long, we’ve been telling the guys, the most important game is the next one,” he said. “The question always is, can we go play defense, rebound and play with enough intensity to get the win? Hopefully we will.”