2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA—The Central College men’s basketball team trailed by two points in overtime when forward Colby Taylor (freshman, Creston) stole the ball and called timeout, setting the stage for guard Kevin Kaerwer’s (senior, El Paso, Texas, John L. Chapin HS) game-winning 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining for an 84-83 win over Iowa Conference foe Simpson Wednesday night.
The Dutch (10-6 overall, 3-2 conference) trailed the first four minutes in the extra frame, grabbing their first overtime lead on two Kaerwer free throws with 53 seconds remaining. Simpson (3-13 overall, 1-4 conference) responded with a 3-pointer of its own and a stop on the ensuing possession, but was unable to control the ball late and Central took advantage.
It’s Central’s first overtime game this season and first overtime win since Feb. 11, 2012, a 77-74 double overtime victory at Luther.
“Kevin showed what a senior is,” coach Craig Douma said. “He’s been such a great leader and is a hard-nosed player. I enjoy watching him because he gives 100 percent all the time. He just makes plays.
“Colby’s steal was huge. He stepped up defensively in that situation and all game. He pressured the ball and made a big play when we needed it most.”
The Dutch celebrated as Simpson’s rebuttal was off the mark and caromed out of bounds, ending a game that had 10 ties and nine lead changes.
Kaerwer finished with 23 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Taylor added nine points, four rebounds and two steals. Guard Fred Pratt (senior, Rosenberg, Texas, Lamar Consolidated HS), Central’s leading scorer at halftime, finished with a career-high 15 points off the bench, while forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) notched his seventh double-double of the season with a game-high 25 points and 16 rebounds.
Both Kaerwer and Greenfield played a team-high 41 minutes.
“Kevin and Matt were our go-to guys,” said Douma. “We asked a lot of them and they came up huge, particularly late in the game. They both scored the ball, but they did a lot of other things well tonight. Their play was the difference between a win and a loss.”
The Dutch upped their game defensively in the second half, holding the Storm to 30 points on 24.1 percent (7-of-29) shooting, including 0-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc, a far cry from the 51.5 percent (17-of-33) output in the opening frame.
Douma praised the effort of forward Yaw Sapon-Amoah (senior, Ghana, Africa, Des Moines Christian HS), who requested to guard Simpson’s point guard and leading scorer Chad Gutschenritter in the closing seconds of regulation with the game tied.
“Yaw caused a lot of problems for Simpson,” Douma said. “He wanted the defensive assignment on the final possession, so we gave it to him and he made the stop. I was really proud of his performance. It was a great defensive effort by the entire team.”
Offensively Central was consistent, shooting 14-of-31 (45.2 percent) from the floor in both halves and finishing 31-of-68 (45.6 percent). The team struggled from behind the 3-point arc in the second half, but hauled in 46 rebounds en route to 46 points in the paint.
“We had a good offensive night, but we need to make more from 3-point range and convert on more layups,” said Douma. “It wasn’t our prettiest win, but it’s a conference win and those are not easy to come by. We willed ourselves to a win tonight.”
Gutschenritter led the Storm with 22 points. Guards Charles Swain and Dillon Gretzky and forward Ryan Olson joined him in double figures with 18, 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Next the Dutch travel to Storm Lake for Saturday’s contest against Buena Vista (9-7 overall, 4-1 conference). The Beavers, the 2012-13 conference co-champions, swept last season’s two-game series by a combined nine points (84-80, 85-80). Buena Vista scored a 12-point win over Wartburg Wednesday night.
“Buena Vista is really good and even better at home,” Douma said. “We’re going to have to hit shots to win and find ways to get stops. We need to ride this momentum into Saturday and come out with intensity and excitement.”
Tip is set for 4 p.m. at Siebens Fieldhouse. Both games will be broadcasted by KRLS-FM (92.1). The broadcast can also be accessed through www.kniakrls.com.