Warrior boys basketball shows potential with three-game winning streak

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Isaac Loan put up 10 points in Central’s win over West Central. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Sam Frailey makes a move around a Postville defender. A win in that game gave Central its third straight.

Caden Erickson attempts a shot in Central's win against Waterloo Christian.

Dan McGreal fights for the opening tip-off against Waterloo Christian.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central boys basketball team put a full stop to its six-game losing streak last week, putting together a three-game winning stretch that included a come-from-behind victory, a game of domination and one of steady consistency.


The wins improved Central to 5-9 overall and 2-7 in the Upper Iowa Conference. It’s the program’s first three-game wining streak since the 2017-2018 season, and marks a possible turn of fortune for the team, or at the very least, highlights the potential that exists within the lineup. 


The first win of the week against Waterloo-Christian was the hardest, as the Warriors were down 22-14 after the first period, before a defensive switch and quicker rotations allowed the team to go on a 13-4 second period run to take a one-point lead into halftime. 


However, the Warriors quickly found themselves in trouble as the second half got underway, committing fouls in abundance, giving the Regents easy points from the free throw line and a seven-point lead. 


Waterloo-Christian held that lead heading into the fourth period, and the Warriors continued to struggle, going down by nine with six minutes to go in the fourth. Then, the Central offense exploded, going on a 23-9 run and closing out the game with a 65-60 victory. 


Dan McGreal led the Warriors with 19 points and Elliot Kelly added 17, while Caden Erickson had 11 points while shooting 100 percent from the field. 


Caden and Gabe Erickson led the team with five rebounds each, while McGreal topped the team in assists, with five. 


The defense forced 15 turnovers and 10 steals and held the Regents to just 14 percent from the three point arc, while the offense shot 48 percent from the field and 35 percent on three pointers.  


“Great offensive efficiency, combined with timely defensive stops, were key in that final stretch to close the game. Our ability to shoot a high percentage from the field while also winning the turnover battle were also necessary to get the victory,” said coach Brady Stramer.


The second victory of the week against West Central was an easier affair, but it didn’t start out that way. The Blue Devils took an early 9-7 lead after the first period due to a slow start by Central and early foul trouble. However, that lead was short-lived, as the Warriors bench stormed the basket in the second period, pulling away 24-16 at halftime. Central continued piling on the points en route to what Stramer said was the “team’s best offensive quarter when it mattered most,” and taking the 53-33 win. 


McGreal and freshman Isaac Loan each led the team in scoring with 10, on a “night where points were hard to come by,” said Stramer. Tate Berns added eight points, five rebounds and four steals, while C. Erickson contributed eight points, three rebounds and one steal. Kelly ended the game with four points, while leading the team with six assists and compiling three steals. 


As a defense, the Warriors finished with 14 steals and forced 26 turnovers and two blocks. The offense shot 37 percent from the floor, 36 percent on three point shots and limited the Blue Devils to just one of 10 on three pointers. 


“The Warriors’ ability to hold their opponents to single digits in all four quarters was a first for the season, and another step in the right direction on that end of the floor. The turnover number was higher than we’d like with 17, but we were able to force 26, which again speaks to our defensive effort,” Stramer said. 


The final win of the week was a home victory against conference opponent Postville. The Warriors put the game away early, and despite the Pirates’ attempts to claw back into it, they could not overcome the 17-point first period lead the Warriors built up or overcome a Warrior offense that scored in double-digits in every period of the 69-54 win. 


The first period scoring barrage was “likely their best quarter of the season,” according to Stramer.


“The Warriors were able to move the ball extremely well against their zone defense, which allowed us to get open looks from the perimeter, and to our guys’ credit, they made a high percentage of them. On the defensive end, we were active and communicated very well from the start and did a good job of rebounding and limiting them to one-shot possessions. This effort on both ends of the floor continued throughout the remainder of the game, but the high shooting percentages came down,” Stramer added. 


G. Erickson had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. McGreal followed with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal. Kelly had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Sam Frailey added eight points and two assists. 


As a team, Central shot 49 percent from the field and 53 percent from the three-point line. 


“In total, eight players were in the scoring column, which illustrates the collective effort. We were also able to limit our turnovers to nine, which we have seen a steady improvement in overall, and it will continue to be important as we move into next week’s games and beyond,” Stramer said. “This was one of our best performances of the year, especially on the offensive end of the floor. The ball kept moving until we found the open shooter, and then guys shot the ball with confidence.”


“Our guys are continuing to improve as they better understand their respective roles, and what this team needs from them to help the collective whole compete and get victories,” Stramer added.


The Warriors will look to continue winning with three conference games this week, all of which are at home. They started with West Central Jan. 23, then welcomed the Pirates Jan. 24. The final game of the week is  against Clayton Ridge on Jan. 27.

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