Consistency brings Central boys two more wins

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Gabe Erickson contributed nine points in the Warriors’ come-from-behind victory over Postville. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Tate Berns grabs a rebound in Central’s 59-46 win against West Central.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central boys basketball team last week continued its late season victory surge, adding two more wins in three games. It was aided by the Warriors’ improved consistency and efficiency in limiting turnovers, pushing their season record to 7-10. They are 4-8 in conference, sitting in sixth place, with fifth place not entirely out of reach. 


In the first game of the week, the Warriors started just how coach Brady Stramer wanted them to, with “great defensive energy and solid execution” on offense. That allowed the Warriors to get out to a 14-2 lead over the West Central Blue Devils, 


Heading into the second period, the Blue Devils found some holes in the Central defense, closing the gap to 31-21 before the half, and Central’s lead shrunk to eight points heading into the fourth period. However, the Warrior defense answered the call in the fourth, forcing timely turnovers, while the offense contributed perimeter shots down the stretch. That extended the lead, and the Warriors took the win 59-46. 


Dan McGreal led the team with 23 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field. McGreal also had four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. 


Tate Berns was also able to get into double digits, putting up 10 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field. He added five rebounds and three steals.


Freshman Isaac Loan chipped in 11 points of his own on 100 percent shooting from the field, and Gabe Erickson led the team in rebounding with six. Sam Frailey finished with seven points, while Elliot Kelly had five rebounds, three blocks, two assists and three points. 


The offense shot 40 percent overall, and 33 percent on three-point shots, while committing just 11 turnovers. The defense forced 18 turnovers, 12 steals and one block.


The winning continued against Postville, but it wasn’t easy. It took a forth period comeback to get the job done, in large part due to a slow offensive start and a porous defense that allowed Postville to penetrate the defense and convert shots in the paint.


As the Pirate offense hummed with musical precision, it put the Warriors down 27-21 at halftime. The Warriors continued to trail 37-25 with about 4:30 to go in the third period, when there was a change on defense. Stramer switched from the team’s usual zone concept into more of a man-to-man scheme, and the Warriors were able to generate more stops and helped the offense cut the deficit down to five points heading into the fourth period. 


The fourth proved vital for the Warriors, as they posted highly efficient numbers, scoring 21 points. The man-to-man defense limited the Pirates to 12, and the Warriors pulled off the comeback victory, 56-52. 


“I was very pleased with our guys’ perseverance and ability to find a way to win a game that we trailed in until the final minutes. It was far from our best shooting night, but our ability to increase the intensity on the defensive end late in the game allowed us a chance to come back. Our strong finish speaks to our guys’ composure and stamina,” Stramer said. 


McGreal led the team once again, finishing with 21 points on 9-15 shooting, while also having six rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Kelly added 13 points on 6-10 shooting, with four assists and two steals. G. Erickson led the team with seven rebounds, while contributing nine points. Berns finished with eight points, four rebounds and three steals. 


The Warriors shot 48 percent from the floor and once again limited turnovers to 11.  


The final game of the week was against Clayton Ridge, who was sitting second in the conference standings and a team that defeated Central by 11 points in a previous match-up. 


The game was a back and forth battle, with several lead changes early on. The first quarter closed with Central trailing 14-12. 


The majority of the second quarter followed the same script, until Clayton Ridge was able to go on a 7-0 run the last minute, which included a three pointer at the buzzer that sent the Warriors into halftime down 30-21. 


The second half started how the first half finished, with the Eagles hitting another three, extending their lead to 12, which was the biggest margin of the game. 


From that point on, the Warriors found their rhythm on defense and offense, out-scoring the Eagles 18-10 in the third period and pulling within one point as the fourth period loomed. 


The fourth quarter was a low-scoring, defensive battle, with a single field goal made between both teams. A three pointer by McGreal with a minute left brought the Warriors within two. Central put up a few more threes, but couldn’t get them to drop, as Clayton Ridge hung on for a 47-44 victory. 


“This was certainly one of our best defensive performances, especially in the second half. On a night where no one outside of McGreal was able to find success from the perimeter, our collective defense and ability to win the turnover battle gave us a chance at the end,” Stramer said. “While the score didn’t end up how we wanted it to, we were very pleased with our guys’ continued improvement on the defensive end, and them once again showing resilience and refusing to give up when faced with a deficit.”


McGreal was the only player in double figures, with 20, after shooting 46 percent from the field. Kelly led the team in rebounds with nine, and chipped in three steals, three assists and six points. Loan had a team leading four assists, and Erickson added six points and four rebounds. 


The Warriors had their last regular season road game Jan. 31, at Turkey Valley. They will follow that with a home make-up game against Kee on Feb. 2, then close out the week against North Fayette Valley on Feb. 3. 

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