WATERLOO — Point-for-point, blow-for-blow, Waterloo East went toe-to-toe with Cedar Falls Friday in a Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ basketball game at Fred J. Miller Gymnasium.
Then Northern Iowa recruit A.J. Green said enough is enough.
The 6-foot-3 guard exploded for 27 second-half points as part of a 34-point game to lead the Tigers to a 69-53 victory in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.
Green connected on seven 3-pointers in the second half, including six in a row spanning the third and fourth quarters, as the Tigers (5-3) went from trailing to pulling away.
“We definitely had to battle for it. It didn’t come easy for us,” Green said. “I think it was a really good test for us coming out of the break. We had to come together in the second half, regroup, make some shots and thankfully we came out with a win.”
Green had nine points when he hit his second 3-pointer of the game with 2:17 left in the third quarter to push Cedar Falls ahead, 34-33. For awhile, however, East continued to push back as the Trojans’ Ramon Harrington answered seconds later with his own 3-pointer.
After Logan Wolf tied it at 36-all, East (3-5) retook the lead on a Ja’Cee Clark drive and bucket, only to see Green bury another 3 with a 49 seconds left.
Once again East answered with a 3-pointer from Tyrese Nickelson, but Green connected from deep with 31 seconds left to put the Tigers up 42-41 and then poured in another 3 at the buzzer to give Cedar Falls its largest lead of the game, 45-41, after three quarters.
The Tigers never trailed again.
“We were taking good shots in the first half and they just weren’t falling for us,” Green said. “In the second half we just had to continue to be patient and take good shots. It was just a matter of us making them and thankfully we made some shots and kind of got in a rhythm.
“I knew I just had to keep taking my shots. Once a couple fell, my confidence built a little bit and I was able to get hot, a little bit.”
Green had three more 3-pointers in the fourth as he had 14 third-quarter points and 13 in the fourth. He finished 11 of 23 from the field, including eight 3-pointers.
“Green got hot,” East coach Steve McGraw said. “That is why he is a Division I player. We didn’t have an answer for him and that was the game.”
East opened the game in a 1-3-1 zone defense that caused the Tigers problems. A Green 3-pointer salvaged a 13-13 tie after the first eight minutes, but East controlled the second quarter and lead 23-19 at the break following a Nickelson 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
The Tigers were just 7 of 29 in the first half, including 3 of 15 in the second quarter, but connected on 17 of 25 shots in the second half.
“I think obviously the 1-3-1 kind of got them the pace they wanted,” Cedar Falls coach Ryan Schultz said. “It was a good game plan on their part. I thought we handled it well and thought we got good shots. We just weren’t knocking any of them down and it was simple as that in the first half.”
McGraw saw a lot to like other than a few defensive breakdowns that Green exploited.
“The two best halves of basketball we’ve played is the first half tonight, and the second half against Dubuque Hempstead,” McGraw said. “Unfortunately, we have not put together two halves in the same night.
“I can’t fault our effort tonight. I thought we played hard.”
Cedar Falls 69, East 53
CEDAR FALLS (5-3) — A.J. Green 11-23 4-4 34, Logan Wolf 3-9 0-0 6, Ben Gerdes 4-9 4-6 14, Mason Abbas 1-3 0-0 3, Justin Campbell 2-2 0-0 4, Reese Gardner 1-1 2-2 4, Sam Gary 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson Frericks 2-6 0-0 4, Tate Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 10-12 69.
WATERLOO EAST (3-5) — Tyrese Nickelson 6-16 0-0 15, Ja’Cee Clark 7-12 2-3 17, Jovahn Holmes 2-4 1-2 7, Treyshawn LeBeaux 4-7 0-0 9, Ramon Harrington 1-5 0-0 3, Tavious Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0, Kendall Robinson 1-1 0-0 2, Daquavion Walker 0-5 0-0 0, Larenz Plum 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-50 3-5 53.
Cedar Falls 13 6 26 24 — 69
Wat. East 13 10 18 12 — 53
3-point goals—Cedar Falls 11 (Green 8, Gerdes 2, Abbas). East 7 (Nickelson 2, Clark, Holmes 2, Harrington, LeBeaux). Total fouls—Cedar Falls 10, East 11. Fouled out—none.
C.F. SOPHS 85, EAST SOPHS 63
CEDAR FALLS — Jack Mody 4, Joshua Ollendieck 16, Ben Sernett 13, Jaxon Heth 20, Gilmore Taiber 10, Cade McCann 5, Bryce Albaugh 7, Michael White 10.
EAST — Ronald Frazier 3, DJ Holmes 3, Ramir Scott 25, Dylan Reyes 2, Brian Keene 6, Nameer Johnson 10, Traer Owens 13, P. Witt 1.