2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
STORM LAKE — It was an opportune time to catch fire.
Knocking down nine of its last 10 shots—including 6-of-7 3-pointers--and getting a career-high 35 points from forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS), the Central College men’s basketball team soared from behind to knock off Buena Vista University on the road Saturday, 76-72.
The win let the Dutch wedge their way into a tie for second place in the Iowa Conference, matching Buena Vista at 4-2. Central, 11-6 overall, trails unbeaten Dubuque, which took a 5-0 league mark and 16-0 overall record into Saturday evening’s game with Loras College.
It’s Central’s first triumph at Storm Lake since 2007, and only its second win in its last 17 appearances in Siebens Fieldhouse.
“It was fun to watch,” coach Craig Douma said. “The guys really hung in there.”
Greenfield drained 7-of-10 3-point shots and was 11-of-21 overall to top his previous best of 33 points scored at Bethany Lutheran (Minn.), Dec. 8, 2012. The 35-point outing is tied for 17th on the all-time single-game scoring list at Central. It’s the fourth time this season Greenfield has scored 25 points or more and he has 60 points in his last two outings. He upped his season average to 18.1 points and he’s pulling down 9.4 rebounds a game as well. Greenfield also topped the 800-point mark for his career and stands with 804 with a minimum of eight games remaining in the season.
“Matt had a great first half,” Douma said. “He played within himself and was getting good shots. At the start of the second half, he missed his first three, so we took him out for a couple minutes and after we put him back in, he finished really strong.
“He stepped up and that’s what seniors do.”
Central’s late outburst came without warning. A surge near the end of the first half put the Dutch up 35-30 at intermission, but Buena Vista needed just 1:09 to regain the lead en route to a 13-0 run over the first 3:35 that left the Beavers in control at 43-35. Central was still lagging 53-46 with 9:00 remaining and down 55-49 with 7:20 left.
The Dutch shooting touch to that point mirrored the icy winds off nearby Storm Lake, as they were connecting on 34 percent from the field. But guard Kevin Kaerwer (senior, El Paso, Texas, John L. Chapin HS), who had misfired on his first eight shots, hit a field goal and a three, sandwiched around two Greenfield free throws, and the Dutch were suddenly up 57-56 at the 5:54 mark.
“Kevin had struggled all game long, but he made that little teardrop and shot with a lot more confidence after that,” Douma said.
After Buena Vista answered with a 3-pointer, Greenfield and Nile Eckermann (junior, Cosgrove, Clear Creek-Amana HS) responded with back-to-back treys and it was 62-59 Central.
“Nile’s three was a dagger,” Douma said. “It was a tough shot and it was a real confidence boost for him. You could just feel the momentum after that.”
Buckets by Greenfield and Eckermann made it 66-62. Buena Vista cut it to 66-65, but the barrage continued with a Greenfield three, a Kaerwer three and another Greenfield three and the Dutch were in command 75-67 with 1:45 left. They secured the win from there.
“We really executed offensively down the stretch,” Douma said. “The guards did a really good job of just staying patient and finding the open man.”
Kaerwer and freshman forward Colby Taylor (Creston) each finished with 10 points but Douma also cited the inside play of center Spencer Bakerink (senior, Creston) and forward Kyle Newendorp (junior, Pella). Buena Vista has one of the biggest teams in the league and that was a major concern for Douma heading into the game.
“The two unsung heroes were Spencer Bakerink and Kyle Newendorp,” Douma said. “They were going up against guys who they were giving up a lot of size to, but they just worked so hard defensively and they rebounded very well.”
Bakerink had seven boards and Newendorp had four as the undersized Dutch edged Buena Vista on the glass, 40-39. That helped Central overcome 16 turnovers.
Central shot 43.3 percent for the game, including 57.1 percent from 3-point range. Buena Vista hit just 38.9 percent from the field.
Central returns home to take on Coe College Wednesday night. The Kohawks are 9-8 overall and 1-5 in the league after being outscored at Luther College Saturday, 90-70. Game time is 8 p.m. at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium for the second game of the women’s-men’s twinbill. Central is also home next Saturday, meeting Loras College. Douma said it’s important for his squad to capitalize on Saturday’s road win.
“We can’t be satisfied with this,” he said. “We’ve got to build on it. This is a just a crucial week for us as we turn the corner for the final stretch of the season.”