WATERLOO — Waterloo East is starting to believe it belongs.

Following up its overtime win over crosstown rival Waterloo West on Friday, the Trojans shook off a slow start, controlled the third quarter and then got two free throws from Tyrese Nickelson with 2.2 seconds left to beat Linn-Mar, 70-68, Tuesday at the Fred J. Miller Gymnasium in Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ basketball action.

The victory is East’s fifth in six games and improves its record to 8-8 overall.

“The win over West gave us a big boost,” Nickelson said. “Gave us some confidence and I think we will be good from now on.”

The Trojans trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, 33-22, as the Lions drilled four first-quarter 3-pointers and six in the first half.

East answered with back-to-back 3s by Ramon Harrington and Nickelson, and then closed the half on a 6-0 run to trail by only three at the break, 37-34.

“I thought our man-to-man defense was as good as it has been all year,” East head coach Steve McGraw said. “We didn’t play well the first four or five minutes of the game, partly my fault for being in the wrong defense again. I have a habit of doing that this year. I’ll take the blame for that.”

After trading blows to open the third quarter, a Jovahn Holmes 3-pointer gave East its first lead since the 4:39 mark of the first, and a pair of free throws by Nickelson, who had a game-high 30 points, put the Trojans ahead for good, 47-45, with 4:56 left in the third.

“We were settling for a lot of 3-pointers in the first half, and coach told us to attack the rim more and that is what we did a lot more in the second half. That was a big difference for us,” Nickelson said.

East led by 11 with 2:35 left when the Lions (8-8) began nibbling away at the lead. A Trey Hutcheson conventional three-point play made it 67-66 with 51 seconds left, and then a pair of free throws by Hutcheson tied it at 68 with 22 seconds left.

Hutcheson finished with 29 points, including a 12 of 12 effort from the line.

After Hutcheson’s free throws, the Trojans milked the clock down to under five seconds when Nickelson drove the lane and was fouled on his way up with 2.2 seconds left. He nailed both free throws and a desperation heave at the buzzer by Linn-Mar was off the mark.

“We got a little rattled there in the last 2 1/2 minutes, but again, that is all new ... unchartered territory for these kids,” McGraw said. “You have to experience it, and after the other night ... in back-to-back games we are starting to feel like we belong.

“It is a good feeling for us as coaches and it is good feeling for the kids. We finally got a stable lineup. We have kids who understand what their roles are and not caring whether they are starting or coming off the bench, but they are contributing and that is what you want. I was really proud of them tonight.”

East returns to action Friday at home when it hosts Iowa City High.

East 70, Linn-Mar 68

LINN-MAR (8-8) — Trey Hutcheson 8-13 12-12 29, Jacob Robertson 3-10 0-0 9, Nolan Ruff 1-4 4-4 6, Cole Martin 0-3 0-2 0, Greg Hall 6-7 2-2 17, Jaren Nelson 1-4 0-0 3, Jack Gertsen 1-2 2-2 4, Nate Annis 0-2 0-0 0, Hayden Passmore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 20-22 68.

WATERLOO EAST (8-8) — Jacee Clark 3-6 1-3 7, Tyrese Nickelson 10-19 8-9 30, Jovahn Holmes 2-2 1-2 7, Ramon Harrington 3-6 3-4 11, Daquavion Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Kendall Robinson 1-1 0-0 2, Tavious Jenkins 1-1 0-0 0 2, Larenz Plum 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-49 13-18 70.

Linn-Mar 20 17 10 21 — 68

Wat. East 16 18 20 16 — 70

3-point goals — Linn-Mar 8 (Hutcheson, Robertson 3, Hall 3, Nelson). East 5 (Nickelson 2, Holmes 2, Harrington). Total fouls — Linn-Mar 12, East 13. Fouled out — none.


LINN-MAR — Jaxon Shelby 6, Will Zahradnik 10, Trey Martin 9, Brady Klahn 5, Dylan Decklever 15, Fletcher Mindrup 2, Preston Thomas 2, Marcus Orr 8, Carter Schminke 2, Brandon Raus 6, Tyler Andrews 19, Daniel Ho 2, David Jennings 7.

EAST — Ronald Frazier 25, DJ Holmes 7, Dylan Reyes 2, Brian Keene 1, Nameer Johnson 4, Kyon Wilson 4, Dohntay Redmond 4, Develle Rambus 3.


Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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