2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA— Forward Matt Greenfield (junior, Huxley, Ballard HS) erupted for a career-high 33 points to carry the Central College men’s basketball team past Bethany Lutheran (Minn.) 79-77 Saturday.
The Dutch (6-3) saw an 11-point first-half lead whittled to 36-32 at halftime, then built a 63-49 advantage, only to have Bethany Lutheran (2-5) climb to within 78-77 in the closing seconds. The Vikings hit four straight 3-point buckets in the final 2:25, but Central knocked down nine of 10 free throws to preserve the win.
Greenfield, who dropped 31 points in a 96-82 season-opening win over Monmouth College (Ill.) Nov. 15, took advantage of some slick passing from his teammates and hit 13 of 20 shots from the floor, including three 3-point goals, and also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds while blocking three shots.
“Matt would be the first guy to tell you that his teammates deserve a lot of the credit,” coach Craig Douma said. “He had a tough defensive assignment but on offense he had a mismatch all night. He did a great job of getting open and his teammates found him.”
Forward Jacob Winkler (senior, Lancaster, Mo., Schuyler R-1 HS) delivered eight assists while guard Branden Stubbs (junior, Pleasant Hill, Des Moines Christian HS) had seven. The Dutch had 23 assists overall, with just 12 turnovers.
“That’s probably the biggest stat of the game, 23-12,” Douma said. “Jake had eight assists and only one turnover. That’s one of his best games. I thought he played very unselfishly. He was drawing a double-team and we got a lot of easy baskets because of his passing. I thought Branden played very unselfishly as well.
“We harped a lot this week on offensive execution and assist to turnover ratio. I thought we did a better job with that.”
While disappointed that the Dutch couldn’t put Bethany Lutheran away, Douma liked the way they maintained their poise against the Vikings’ pressure late in the game.
“We got the ball in and got to the foul line,” he said.
Winkler finished with 13 points and five rebounds while Stubbs added 12 points. Douma also cited forward Nick Marinkovich (senior, Clarendon Hills, Ill., Hinsdale Central HS), despite some uncharacteristic offensive troubles.
“I thought tonight was Nick’s best defensive effort,” Douma said.
Central shot 47.6 percent from the floor to Bethany Lutheran’s 40.3 percent but was outrebounded 41-40.
Douma also liked the contributions of the Dutch bench. Central was without forward Nana Yaw Sapon-Amoah (junior, Huxley, Des Moines Christian HS) and guard Jordan Cruse (senior, Mason City), who are nursing injuries.
“We came ready to play,” he said. “When we do that, we can play with anybody. It’s all about attitude and team chemistry. We had 10 guys step up and play good minutes. That’s what we need.”
The Dutch take a break for final fall semester exams, then return to action next Friday at Martin Luther College (Minn.) in New Ulm, Minn. with a 7 p.m. game. Central last played Martin Luther in 2010 and holds a 4-1 lead in the teams’ all-time series. The Knights are 0-6 heading into a Monday contest with St. John’s (Minn.)
“We’ve got to come out with fire and energy,” Douma said. “You need that sense of urgency on the road, especially defensively. We want to finish on a positive note going into Christmas time.”