PELLA—This time the Central College men’s basketball team had an answer.
The injury-ravaged Dutch often faltered down the stretch during a 13-game losing streak when they were forced to go with a young and inexperienced lineup. But Saturday the team’s lone senior, all-conference guard Jaden Moody (Cambridge, Ballard HS), was on the floor and when Central saw a 13-point second-half lead melt away against Simpson College (10-11 overall, 4-8 American Rivers), the Dutch found a way to scratch out a streak-snapping 78-71 victory.
Central (5-17 overall, 2-11 conference) was up 62-49 with 10:27 left before a 20-7 Simpson surge turned that into a 69-68 deficit with 3:50 remaining. surge 69-68. But in a late-game timeout, coach Craig Douma sensed the difference in having Moody back for just his second game after going down with injury Dec. 4. It was Senior Day and Moody made it his.
“We got the timeout and Jaden just took over,” Douma said. “He just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to finish this. We’re going to win this game.’ And when you have a senior who steps up like that and your kids listen to him, it makes a difference. We showed a lot of toughness and we did it with defense down the stretch.”
The pivotal play was a 3-pointer by guard Adam Flinn (junior, St. Louis, Mo., Lafayette HS) with 2:24 left to put Central back on top 71-69. The Dutch never trailed again, scoring 10 of the game’s final 12 points.
“Adam Flinn’s shot was big,” Douma said.
Moody and Flinn each had 20 points for the Dutch. Forward Caden Mauck (junior, Kansas City, Mo., Blue Springs South HS) had eight rebounds and six assists.
But the most glaring statistic for Douma was Central’s 44-33 rebounding advantage. The Dutch held a 15-4 edge in offensive boards. It’s an area where the undersized squad has struggled. Central was dominated on the glass 52-31 in a 91-71 loss to Simpson at Indianola Jan. 11.
“It was a 20-rebound difference in the wrong direction the last time we played them,” Douma said. “And to limit them to no offensive rebounds in the second half was outstanding.”
Douma also cited Central’s late-game defense.
“Guys stepped up to the challenge we put forth to them in the last few days about being better defensively,” he said. “We challenged Adam Flinn specifically, and he has done a heck of a job. That’s a lot to ask of a guy who’s been carrying the team on offense to also do it on the defensive end but he’s doing it.”
Moody is still on restricted minutes coming off his injury and when he went down late in the game, Douma briefly pondered taking him out. A determined glance to the bench by Moody swiftly put an end to the discussion.
“We almost subbed him out but decided, no, if we’re going to win or lose this game we’re going to do it with him on the floor,” Douma said. “It just shows you how tough he is. He showed a lot of heart tonight. It shows how important his leadership is to this team, the kind of young man he is and how much he’s grown into an outstanding young man. I think I’m more proud of what kind of man he is off the floor than as a basketball player.”
Central closes its home slate Wednesday, tackling Luther College in a women’s-men’s doubleheader with the men’s game starting at 7:30 p.m. at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium. The Norse escaped 64-62 in the teams’ earlier meeting at Decorah Jan. 8. Luther was dominated by No. 7-ranked Nebraska Wesleyan University at home Saturday 95-65 in slipping to 7-15 overall and 3-10 in the conference.
“We felt like we let that one get away up there,” Douma said. “We have to get back up again Wednesday night and be ready to go. We want to finish the home season the right way and gain some momentum into the rest of the season. That can carry over into next year.”