The Central College women’s and men’s basketball teams seemed to save their best for last, as both teams closed out the regular season with thrilling victories over Wartburg College in front of the home fans Saturday afternoon.
The women’s game saw the Dutch put together an 11-0 run in the game’s final minutes to tie the game at 71-71. Central had the final shot, and Kelsey Schuring buried what appeared to be the game-winning three-pointer right at the buzzer. However, the officials ruled that the shot was released after time had expired; forcing overtime.
The Knights took an early five-point lead, and it looked as though Central’s fate was sealed, but a resilient corps of seniors refused to go down without a fight, tying the game once more at 80-80.
After a pair of Wartburg free throws, Central was down by two with 5.6 second remaining. In a bizarre turn of events, the Dutch advanced the ball across half-court, but the clock never started, and the officials elected to run off three seconds and give the Dutch the ball at mid-court. With 2.6 second left in overtime, an inbounds pass intended for Sarah Paulson went errant, but ended up in the hands of senior AJ Baker, who let loose a three at the top of the key and hit nothing but nylon as time expired.
It was Baker’s only field goal of the game, but it secured a dramatic 83-82 overtime victory over the Knights and sent Central’s five seniors out on a high note. Paulson led four Central players in double figures with 23 points and also pulled down 6 rebounds. The Central College women’s basketball team finished the season with a 7-18 overall record and went 2-14 in the Iowa Conference. Along with Baker, Paulson and Schuring; the Dutch will also lose Cory Bacon and Melanie Hopkins to graduation.
The men’s game had just as much drama, as the Dutch battled back-and-forth with the Knights throughout the entire 40 minutes. Central’s five-point lead at the intermission matched the largest lead for either team throughout the entire contest.
The Dutch were clinging on to a 64-63 lead in the final seconds, with Wartburg able to hold on for a final shot. The Knights got an offensive rebound from Mitchell Murphy on their initial miss, then a second shot caromed off the rim. Wartburg star Jordan Sathoff had one final try at a tap-in, and it felt like time came to a complete standstill with the ball sitting on the back of the rim, then slowly rolling off to the right side to preserve the victory for the Dutch.
Central’s Nick Marinkovich came off the bench to score 16 points and pull down 9 rebounds – both team-highs for the Dutch. Central overcame a mediocre shooting performance from the field by knocking down 18-of-20 free throws and committing only 9 turnovers. With the win, the Central College men’s basketball team finishes the regular season at 18-7 and 10-6 against league opponents. They’ll host Luther College on Tuesday in the opening round of the Iowa Conference Tournament.