WATERLOO — Too often this season, a big run has been enough to cause Waterloo East’s boys’ basketball team to come unraveled.
Certainly, pointing fingers is no way to stay afloat within a Mississippi Valley Conference that may be as deep as ever.
Moments prior to tip-off against a Dubuque Wahlert team that knocked off Class 3A’s No. 1-ranked Oskaloosa last weekend, members of East’s team made a pact to stick together.
When No. 8-ranked Wahlert went on an 11-point third-quarter run, East put those words into action Friday night. The host Trojans regained their defensive composure, traded 3-point attempts for looks at the rim on offense and secured a 60-53 victory inside Fred J. Miller Gymnasium.
“When teams kind of make a run, we’ve gotten frustrated at each other,” East junior standout Tyrese Nickelson said after finishing with a game-high 25 points. “We told each other before the game when that stuff happens, pick each other up, and I think that worked.”
East (5-7, 2-6 MVC) played team basketball on both sides of the court throughout the majority of this contest. The Trojans benefited from 12 of Wahlert’s 20 turnovers in the first half and had eight different players find the scoring column as unselfish play allowed East to assemble a 33-17 lead at intermission.
Wahlert (5-7, 2-6) found traction with its imposing frontcourt duo of 6-foot-6 Peter Timmerman (11 points) and 6-foot-4 Matthew Bandy (14 points) establishing control of the paint during an 11-0 late third-quarter run that cut the Golden Eagles’ deficit to 41-38.
That’s when East pulled together and turned the tide back in its favor. Nickelson scored inside to end the third quarter and added another layup off the drive before teammate Kendall Robinson tipped in a miss to push the Trojans’ lead back to nine early in the fourth.
“I thought we played really well first half,” East coach Steve McGraw said. “We haven’t been in this situation (protecting a lead) very much this year. It’s hard to prepare for that in practice. You can do all the preparing you want, but until you put people in the stands and turn the lights on and tell you what the score is, it’s hard.”
As Wahlert continued to apply pressure into the fourth quarter, East quickly recovered from its brief lapses.
Ramon Harrington redeemed himself from a missed layup with a steal and assist to Nickelson that extended a four-point lead to six with 2:41 remaining. Nickelson converted 7 of 8 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and Jovahn Holmes made his two chances from the line to shut the door.
Jacee Clark added 10 points off the bench to complement a concerted team effort on defense.
“I thought defensively it was one of our better games,” McGraw said. “We really got after it and made some plays.
“I’m real proud of the kids. We shot ourselves in the foot several times, but to their credit they played hard. They really busted their butt and played hard.”
Wat. East 60, Dub. Wahlert 53
DUBUQUE WAHLERT (5-7, 2-6) — Matthew Bandy 6-10 2-8 14, Jacob Schoeckemoehl 6-13 2-3 16, Craig Collins 2-2 0-1 4, Jackson Jaeger 1-4 3-4 5, Peter Timmerman 2-5 7-8 11, Cael Schmitt 1-4 0-1 3, Jack Doyle 0-1 0-0 0, Sam Grahl 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-39 14-24 53.
WATERLOO EAST (5-7, 2-6) — DaQuavion Walker 2-5 0-0 4, Tyrese Nickelson 8-14 7-9 25, Ramon Harrington 3-8 0-0 6, Tavious Jenkins 0-1 0-0 0, Kendall Robinson 2-2 0-0 4, Jacee Clark 4-6 1-3 10, Jovahn Holmes 1-2 2-2 5, Larenz Plum 1-1 0-0 2, Steven VanArsdale 0-0 0-0 0, TreyShawn LaBeaux 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 23-45 10-14 60.
Dub. Wahlert 5 12 21 15 — 53
Waterloo East 15 18 10 17 — 60
3-point goals — Wahlert 3 (Schockemoehl 2, Schmitt), East 4 (Nickelson 2, Clark, Holmes). Total fouls — Wahlert 16, East 18. Fouled out — none.