2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
INDIANOLA—The Central College men’s basketball team won its fifth consecutive Iowa Conference game 80-76 over Simpson College Wednesday night, clinching a spot in the six-team league tournament.
The Dutch (14-6 overall, 7-2 conference) withstood a furious Storm (3-17 overall, 1-8 conference) rally, holding on for a four-point victory and the season sweep. With the game tied 76-76 and only 20 seconds remaining, center Spencer Bakerink (senior, Creston) corralled the loose ball for a steal and found the outlet man, who found forward Colby Taylor (freshman, Creston) for the game-winning fast break layup.
Guard Nile Eckermann (junior, Cosgrove, Clear Creek Amana HS) sealed the win with two free throws after the Central defense held on Simpson’s final possession.
“We defended really well in the final two possessions,” coach Craig Douma said. “Colby made them take a tough shot, they missed it and Nile came up with the rebound. It was a great defensive stand.”
The Dutch never trailed and led by as many as 16 points with 8:35 remaining in the game, but the Storm scored 10 unanswered to draw even in the closing minute. But Central’s defense stood strong on the final two possessions.
Forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) continued his torrid play with a game-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and seven rebounds.
“Matt was in foul trouble early, but he kept his head and played smart basketball,” said Douma. “It was an all-around solid performance. He really carried our team.”
The Dutch received offensive support from two unlikely sources. Guard Fred Pratt (senior, Rosenberg, Texas, Lamar Consolidated HS) and forward Yaw Sapon-Amoah (senior, Ghana, Africa, Des Moines Christian HS) were Central’s second- and third-leading scorers with 11 and 10 points, respectively. The duo was part of the bench play that Douma described as the difference in the game.
“It’s back-to-back great games for Fred,” said Douma. “He attacked the rim, hit big shots and was a lift offensively. Yaw was great defensively once again and played well around the basket. They both stepped up tonight.”
Douma also noted the play of guard Aaron Rosenstiel (junior, Oelwein), who scored four points in 14 minutes off the bench.
Central shot 50.8 percent (31-of-61) from the field, including 41.7 percent (5-of-12) from behind the 3-point arc. But the Dutch could not shake the Storm, who shot 50.0 percent (30-of-60) from the field as well. It came down to the final two possessions and Central made plays.
“We knew we could score,” Douma said. “We had good looks down the stretch that didn’t fall and Simpson took advantage. We executed well and did some great things, but we need to learn to finish off our opponents.
“It’s a tough place to play, but we were able to hold on.”
Guard Chad Gutschenritter led Simpson with 22 points and six assists. Guard Charles Swain and forward Austin Hennings also reached double figures with 19 and 14 points, respectively. Hennings hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds as well.
The University of Dubuque (19-1 overall, 8-1 conference) also clinched a spot in the six-team conference tournament with an 18-point win over Wartburg College Wednesday night.
The Dutch return to the court at Coe College (9-11 overall, 1-8 conference) Saturday. Central grounded the Kohawks 74-63 in this season’s first meeting last Wednesday at Pella. Coe dropped an 80-74 decision to Buena Vista Wednesday night.