2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA—The Central College men’s basketball team battled, but was toppled by undefeated league favorite Dubuque 74-67 at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium Saturday evening.
The Dutch (8-5 overall, 1-1 conference) led the Spartans (13-0, 2-0 conference) by nine points at the intermission, but were unable to fend off their second-half run. Dubuque, which won the 2013 Iowa Conference tournament and was picked to finish first in this season's preseason poll, bested its first-half point total by 22 (48-26) en route to the victory.
“We were right there,” coach Craig Douma said. “We put ourselves in a position to win, but we need to turn the corner. It came down to making shots and Dubuque made more.”
Central led from the 15-minute mark in the first half until the Spartans knotted the game 51-51 with 7:42 remaining in the second. The two teams went back-and-forth until a 9-0 Dubuque run in the final 1:18 put the game out of reach.
“We had opportunities to stretch our lead and take control of the game, but we didn’t do it,” said Douma. “Dubuque is a good ball club and they made some big plays in key moments.”
Guard Kevin Kaerwer (senior, El Paso, Texas, John L. Chapin HS) led the Dutch with 17 points, including 10-of-10 from the free throw line, and grabbed six rebounds. Forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) notched his fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Douma noted the play of forward Colby Taylor (freshman, Creston), who recorded 15 points and eight rebounds and contributed a lot of the defensive end of the floor.
Both teams struggled offensively, as Central finished 22-of-61 (36.1 percent) and Dubuque finished 24-of-62 (38.7 percent). The Spartans entered the game averaging more than 85 points per contest, a credit to the Dutch defense.
Douma praised the defensive efforts of guard Nile Eckermann (junior, Cosgrove, Clear Creek Amana HS), forward Yaw Sapon-Amoah (senior, Ghana, Africa, Des Moines Christian HS) and center Spencer Bakerink (senior, Creston), particularly around the perimeter and against Dubuque’s top scorer.
“Nile is doing a great job defensively,” Douma said. “He’s improved a lot. Yaw and Spencer did a great job on Norris, too. Norris is going to score some points because he’s just that good. But our defensive game plan was great.
“We had good offensive looks, but didn’t knock them down. If some of those fall, it’s a whole different ballgame. We did some things well, but we need to make more plays. That was the difference.”
Dubuque forward Gage Heffernan scored a game-high 22 points and hauled in eight rebounds, while forward Andre Norris finished with 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting and nine rebounds. Guard Chris Frazier also reached double digits with 13 points.
The Dutch return to action Wednesday against Wartburg College (7-6 overall, 1-1 conference) at Waverly. Last season the Knights swept the two-game series with an eight-point home win and a six-point road win. Wartburg opened the conference schedule with a 67-63 loss at Dubuque Wednesday before besting Luther Saturday on its home court 76-69.