2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA—Guard Kevin Kaerwer (senior, El Paso, Texas, John L. Chapin HS) scored 18 of his career-high 26 points in the second half and made three free throws in the final 22 seconds as the Central men’s basketball team edged last season’s Iowa Conference co-champion Luther 84-82 in its conference opener Wednesday night.
The Dutch (8-4 overall, 1-0 conference) scored 51 second-half points after trailing 38-33 at the intermission to top the Norse (8-4 overall, 0-1 conference). Central also committed only two second-half turnovers, finishing with a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 2:1 (18-to-9).
“We were a bit rusty at the start, but we executed late in the game,” coach Craig Douma said. “The first half was frustrating, but we responded really well in the second.”
Kaerwer finished the game 9-of-15 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from behind the 3-point arc and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) also turned it on after the break, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the closing frame. He also hauled in a team-high nine rebounds. Forward Colby Taylor (freshman, Creston) played a game-high 35 minutes and filled the stat sheet with six points, six rebounds and a career-high seven assists.
“Kevin played a quality game,” said Douma. “He was very efficient at the point tonight. Matt and Colby also played very well and made timely plays. It was an excellent team win.”
Guard Nile Eckermann (junior, Cosgrove, Clear Creek Amana) once again joined Kaerwer and Greenfield in double figures with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including three 3-pointers. He chipped in four assists, as well. Douma also cited the play of forward Yaw Sapon-Amoah (senior, Ghana, Africa, Des Moines Christian HS), who scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting—including one emphatic fast break dunk—and hauled in five rebounds.
While both teams shot over 50 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range, the Dutch wanted to limit Luther’s 3-pointers. The Norse made only five from behind the arc, four days removed from a 13-of-25 effort from distance.
“We played Luther exactly how we wanted to play them and it worked,” Douma said. “We wanted to make their best players beat us and take away the 3-point shot and that’s exactly what we did. We defended well, rebounded well and closed it out.”
Luther guard John Androus matched Kaerwer with 26 points and hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds, while forwards Jake Martin and Brian Nnaoji scored 17 and 10, respectively.
“Tonight was important,” said Douma. “We open up at home against two tough opponents and this was a nice start. It doesn’t get any easier, but we are ready to battle.”
The Dutch return to Kuyper Gym Saturday against Dubuque (11-0 overall) at 4 p.m. The teams split last season’s two-game series, with the home team winning in both instances. Central edged the Spartans 61-58 at Pella, but was dropped 69-50 at Dubuque. Dubuque closed nonconference play atop the conference standings and is receiving votes in the most recent D3hoops.com poll.