16 Iowa Conference championships
PELLA — A second-half rally, tough defense and late free throws kept the Central College men’s basketball squad in the game for a narrow 71-68 victory against Iowa Conference rivals Loras College Wednesday evening.
Down 35-28 at the half, the Dutch (10-13 overall, 3-10 conference) slowly chipped away at the Duhawk (8-16 overall, 3-10 conference) lead, going on a 13-5 run in the first seven minutes of the second half. Loras responded with a 10-3 push, taking the score to 53-43 with 10:42 left in regulation.
With just nine minutes to play, guard Nick Marinkovich (senior, Clarendon Hills, Ill., Hinsdale Central HS) stepped up to the 3-point line and drained back-to-back shots as well as three free throws.
“Nick had some big shots for us at the end,” said coach Craig Douma. “He really attacked the hole. That was the best I had seen him do that in a while which opened up the outside shots for him, and down the stretch those free throws really mattered.”
The Dutch made seven of eight free throws in the final six minutes which sealed the game.
“We have talked about it all season,” Douma said. “To win games we need to take care of the ball, play good defense and make our free throws. Those last shots from the line really determined the outcome.”
Marinkovich tallied a game-high and career-high 24 points. He had seven rebounds. Guard Brandon Stubbs (junior, Pleasant Hill, Des Moines Christian HS) added 20 points. The two high scorers had a lot of help from the bench after injuries derailed two starters. Senior Jacob Winkler (center, Lancaster, Mo., Schuyler R-1 HS) was unable to play because of a pregame injury and junior Matt Greenfield (forward, Huxley, Ballard HS) was injured with less than ten minutes remaining in the game.
“We had a big boost from our bench tonight,” said Douma. “With two starters out, the team did an excellent job of stepping in and finishing off the game. Jordan Cruse (senior, Mason City) and Eric Scott (senior, Adel, ADM HS) worked hard on defense and came up with some great plays.”
Douma also cited center Spencer Bakerink (junior, Creston) as a defensive threat.
“Spencer had some big defense,” he said. “He had a great presence on the inside and was able to make some amazing stops.”
The Dutch finish the season with a league doubleheader against Simpson College Saturday at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium. The Storm (6-18 overall, 2-11 conference) last played the Dutch Jan. 23 in Indianola, scarcely defeating Central 75-70.
“We feel good going into the final game,” Douma said. “We need to use this as momentum. Simpson has quickness out front and can attack the inside. If we execute from the start and take care of the paint, we can come out with a win.”