2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
PELLA—It felt a lot closer than 11 points.
“It was much closer than the final score,” coach Craig Douma said. “It was a battle.”
Central College men’s basketball guard Nile Eckermann (junior, Cosgrove, Clear Creek Amana HS) scored 20 points and hit a transition 3-pointer late in the second half that sent the P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium crowd into a frenzy as the Dutch won their third straight Iowa Conference contest 74-63 over Coe College Wednesday night.
“Nile had a nice game,” said Douma. “He was feeling it and our guys did a great job of finding him, especially in transition. He was a tough guy to guard tonight.”
Central (12-6 overall, 5-2 conference) led by as many as 17 points midway through the closing frame, but saw its lead dwindle to five after a Coe (9-9 overall, 1-6 conference) 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining. On the ensuing Dutch possession, forward Colby Taylor (freshman, Creston) secured the offensive rebound as the shot clock expired and pulled it out, all but ending the Kohawks’ rally.
“It was a huge rebound,” Douma said. “Colby is a worker and it’s tough to keep him off the boards. What he did after the rebound was even more impressive. That’s a freshman making a veteran play. It says a lot about his basketball IQ.”
Eckermann led all players with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from long range, three rebounds and two assists. Taylor finished with 10 points and four rebounds, none bigger than the one in the closing minute.
Forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) posted his eighth double-double of the season and fourth in league play with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Kevin Kaerwer (senior, El Paso, Texas, John L. Chapin HS) also reached double figures with 14 points and chipped in four assists. The duo combined for 18 points in the second half.
“Matt stayed steady and brought a lot of energy to the team,” said Douma. “Both he and Kevin made big plays for us again tonight. They played like senior leaders.”
The Dutch defended the Kohawks well, particularly in the paint and from behind the 3-point arc. Despite being undersized, Central outscored Coe in the paint (30-24) and held its guards to 3-of-12 (25.0 percent) from distance.
Guard Andrew Wirth led the Kohawks with 14 points, while guard Matt Daoust and forward JT Vonderhaar scored 10 apiece. No other Coe player scored more than seven points.
“Our second half defense was really good,” Douma said. “We got stops in the post, we rebounded well and our guards controlled the perimeter. It was another great team win.”
Douma noted the defensive efforts of forwards Yaw Sapon-Amoah (senior, Ghana, Africa, Des Moines Christian HS) and Kyle Newendorp (junior, Pella) and center Spencer Bakerink (senior, Creston). Bakerink scored six points and hauled in six boards, while Yaw grabbed five rebounds, helping the Dutch to a 37-32 advantage on the glass.
Offensively Central shot 49.1 percent (27-of-55) from the field, 40.0 percent (8-of-20) from 3-point range and converted on 12-of-14 free throw attempts. The Dutch found ways to score despite Coe’s tough defense.
And Central did it all in front of loud fans inside Kuyper Gym.
“The crowd was great tonight,” said Douma. “The fans don’t realize it, but their energy has a strong influence. It makes a difference and we need that excitement every game.”
Central is back in action Saturday against Loras College (11-7 overall, 4-3 conference) at 4 p.m. The Duhawks won this season's first meeting 70-60 at Dubuque, in which Greenfield recorded a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds). Loras suffered a 90-89 double-overtime loss at Wartburg Wednesday night.
“Saturday is a big test,” Douma said. “We need to keep doing what we’re doing and stay focused. We need to keep our sights fixed on our goals.”
Both the men’s and women’s games will be broadcasted by KRLS-FM (92.1). The broadcast can also be accessed through www.kniakrls.com.