Bluejays hold off huge rally from Pirates
JOHNSON CREEK — Rebounding helped spark the Bluejays early and rebounding saved them late.
Second and third chance points in the first half helped Johnson Creek’s boys basketball team bolt out to a 23-point lead late in the first half.
Waterloo used full-court pressure and halfcourt trapping to storm back to within one with just over a minute remaining, but the Bluejays grabbed three crucial rebounds in the closing moments to pull out a 64-61 nonconference victory on Monday.
“Rebounding was unbelievable,” Johnson Creek boys basketball coach Ryan Lind said.
“That was a huge difference. It’s something we’ve been emphasizing lately for sure. We have to box out and rebound hard because a lot of times we are at a size disadvantage. We had some good offensive rebounds tonight.”
Johnson Creek (3-4) scored the first eight points of the contest and never trailed. Waterloo (0-8) struggled mightily from the floor in the opening minutes and the Bluejays took advantage in transition and also from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Cole Ducklow scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the opening half while senior guard/forward Jamison Richardt added nine of his 19 points in the opening frame.
Richardt’s lone 3-pointer of the night gave Johnson Creek its largest lead of the night at 37-14.
Johnson Creek played like a crew that has been together for awhile and looked in synch early with a variety of shooters hitting from different spots on the floor.
“We did (look good early),” Lind said. “On Friday (a loss to Cambria-Friesland), not so much. We’ve been kind of Jekyll and Hyde this year a little bit. If we can be consistent … we don’t have a ton of size, but if we can play like that, we can play with just about anybody.”
Waterloo has looked and felt that way on some nights as well.
The up-tempo pace and extended pressure began to pay off for the Pirates, who twice trimmed a 17-point halftime deficit to 11 in the opening minutes of the second half.
Junior forward EJ Jiles and senior guard Aaron Brey led the comeback. In the second half, Jiles scored 16 of his team-high 21 points while Brey scored 13 of his 17 points.
The Pirates had eight second half steals and pressured the Bluejays into several more turnovers down the stretch.
Brey had back-to-back steals to finally get the Pirates within double digits. He took the first one in himself, then hit senior forward Jacob O’Neal with a behind-the-back pass for a layup to make it 47-40 with 10:35 remaining.
“At halftime, we said don’t get complacent and let them back in the game, because we have definitely seen that before,“ Lind said. “We think we have a lead, so we don’t have to really play that hard anymore. Then they came out on the press. We were having trouble with that. It definitely took the momentum away from us pretty fast.
“Luckily, we made enough plays to squeak it out at the end.“
Each time Waterloo threatened, Ducklow answered for the Bluejays. He pushed the lead back to 10 with a 3-pointer, then dished to Richardt for a layup after an offensive rebound to make it 52-40.
Jiles converted a three-point play to bring the deficit back to nine, and consecutive steals led to layups for junior guard Chase Bostwick and Brey to make it 52-47 with 7:25 to go.
Ducklow countered with his team’s next eight points. A three-point play and a triple from the corner put Johnson Creek’s lead back to double digits at 60-49 with four minutes left.
“He’s definitely our engine on our team,” Lind said. “When he goes, we go. He makes a lot of things happen, even if they don’t show up on that stat sheet. He’s a good leader.”
Waterloo used a 12-2 run over the next three minutes to get within one. Senior guard Spencer Noel scored the last of his 11 points on a 3 from the corner and Jiles scored twice in the lane to make it 62-61 with 1:11 to play.
Waterloo stole an inbounds pass and had two shots at the lead which didn’t go.
The Bluejays finally broke pressure on their next inbounds opportunity from halfcourt. Ducklow drove in for a layup and missed, but Richardt was there for the putback to extend the lead back to three.
Noel and Brey each had looks near the top which would have tied the game in the closing seconds, but neither went down and the Bluejays secured the rebounds and held on.
Waterloo boys basketball coach Bryan Setz was heartened by the comeback and the success the team’s defensive pressure brought in the second half.
“We were getting steals and getting looks,” Setz said. “It’s something to build off. We’ll work on (pressing for longer periods).
“It’s the falling back into a 2-1-2 zone and not being able to transition back into our man that concerns me. We don’t rebound well when we play zone. You saw some of that tonight. They outrebounded us and got a lot of second and third looks.
“When we can run and fly and get some tipped balls, I think we’re better in transition than teams think. We’ve got to find some depth, too.
“We’ve got a couple guys to come in to bring us some post relief, but we’ve got to find some guards that can step up and play and handle the ball and knock down a few shots for us to help us out.”
Waterloo hosts Deerfield on Thursday. Johnson Creek hosts Princeton/Green Lake on Friday.
JOHNSON CREEK 64, WATERLOO 61
Waterloo 20 41 — 61
Johnson Creek 37 27 — 64
Waterloo (fg-ft-tp) — Brey 7-3-17, Noel 4-0-11, Huebner 0-2-2, Bostwick 3-0-6, Jiles 9-3-21, O’Neal 2-0-4. Totals 25 8-9 61.
Johnson Creek (fg-ft-tp) — Ducklow 9-2-23, Henningsen 3-0-7, Swanson 2-2-6, Richardt 9-0-19, Garza 4-0-9. Totals 27 4-10 64.
Three-point goals — W, Noel 3; JC, Ducklow 3, Henningsen, Richardt, Garza.
Total fouls — W 16, JC 13.