JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — The plan worked to perfection.
After seeing a five-point lead turn into a one-point deficit, the Central College men’s basketball team turned to fifth-year senior forward Caden Mauck (Kansas City, Mo., Blue Springs South HS) and he delivered the winner with one second left for a 72-71 triumph over Illinois College in the title game of the Bill Merris Tournament Saturday.
The Dutch (2-2) took a 40-31 halftime advantage, were up much of the way and led 70-65 with a minute remaining. But Central surrendered back-to-back three-point plays and was down 71-70 with nine seconds left.
However, coach Craig Douma could tell in the time-out huddle that his squad would respond better than it had in two earlier defeats.
“They weren’t down at all,” he said. “It was a completely different sense. They believed.”
Mauck took a pass from guard Drew Edwards (junior, Eden Prairie, Minn.) as he cut hard towards the rim, laying in the winning points.
“We wanted to go right at them because we knew they didn’t want to foul,” Douma said. “Caden executed it perfectly. He caught the ball going downhill and did exactly what he needed to do.”
Mauck finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, shooting 6-of-8 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
“Caden played like we know he can,” Douma said.
Mauck was named to the all-tournament team along with sophomore center Joshua Van Gorp (Pella, Pella Christian HS) who had 13 points and five rebounds.
“Josh was the most consistent player for us all weekend,” Douma said.
Forward Kole Tupa (sophomore, Center Point, Center Point-Urbana HS) also had 13 points while Edwards added 11 to go with eight rebounds and four assists.
Douma said a big difference came at the free throw line. That’s where he said the Dutch lost the season opener, a 77-67 overtime setback against Bethany Lutheran College (Minn.) last Saturday, shooting 15-of-32. But Saturday Central knocked down 14-of-16 and also shot 47.6% from 3-point range as well as 46.2% from the floor.
Central outrebounded Illinois College (3-1) 32-27 and Douma liked the defensive effort as well.
“We were dialed in defensively,” he said. “And we won the rebounding battle against against a good rebounding team. We were the aggressors all afternoon.”
Central travels to Elsah, Illinois Tuesday to meet Principia College. The Panthers are 0-2.
“It’s a long trip but we’ll come in and get ready on Monday,” Douma said.