WAVERLY — The last time rivals Charles City and Waverly-Shell Rock tangled in a Northeast Iowa Conference boys’ basketball matchup, it wasn’t much of a contest as the host Comets cruised to an 81-43 win.

Tuesday night, it was a different story.

The Comets and Go-Hawks traded blows for the first three quarters before Charles City pulled away from a two-point lead for a 71-55 victory, thanks in large part to 18-for-18 shooting from the free throw line over the final eight minutes.

“The game we saw tonight is more of what you can expect from Waverly,” Charles City coach Ben Klapperich said. “They are so fundamentally sound and they always have one of the top defenses, not just in our conference, but in all of Class 3A. This was absolutely what we expected.”

Jackson Molstead’s 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer sent the Comets off with a 31-30 lead.

Charles City increased it to a four-point advantage after three, but Cade Pruhs got the Go-Hawks within a bucket once again at 43-41.

With the game still up for grabs, Waverly-Shell Rock slipped out of character and turned over the ball on three successive possessions. That helped the Comets to their biggest lead at that point, 49-41, and they poured in free throws the rest of the way.

“I give them the credit,” Go-Hawks coach Nate Steege said. “They did what they had to do. I keep telling our guys over and over and over what they need to do, but it has not been sinking in lately.

“We are going to get every team we play, their best performance. They stepped up tonight and gave another one. We just didn’t play well enough to win and I don’t have answers right now for the way we play against them. I have just run out of solutions.”

The Comets improved to 12-6 overall and pulled even with W-SR in the Northeast Iowa standings at 7-4, two losses behind Crestwood.

“We have played a lot of close games this year and three of our losses were buzzer-beaters, one in overtime,” said Klapperich. “Tonight the guys understood what the time was, the score and the situations, and they responded.

“We know our offense is there, and tonight the guys really learned how to finish a game. I think we are like 75 percent shooting from the line and tonight we hit 85 percent. That shows the guys stepped up and realized the MVP part of their role.”

Molstead tallied 35 points for the Comets while Mosai Newsom led the Go-Hawks with 21 points.

Charles City 71, Wav.-S.R. 55

CHARLES CITY (12-6, 7-4) — Jackson Molstead 11 10-12 35, Bradley Andrews 0 4-4 4, JJ Ritter 2 3-5 7, Marcus Cranshaw 3 2-2 9, Tait Arndt 4 2-2 10, Colton Slinger 1 2-2 4, DeOntaye Hoefer 1 0-0 2, Dawson Hinders 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 23-27 71.

WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK (8-10, 7-4) — Hogan Hansen 3 4-4 12, Mosai Newsom 9 3-5 21, Trey Angel 1 0-0 3, Ethan Reichert 0 0-0 0, Kurby Vowels 0 0-0 0, Cade Pruhs 2 0-1 5, Caleb Burks 0 0-0 0, Josh Halverson 2 0-0 6, Keaton Farmer 3 0-0 8, Ben Heyer 0 0-0 0, Trey Eckenrod 0 0-0 0, Brady Ramker 0 0-0 0, Tyler Heine 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 7-10 55.

Charles City 11 20 12 28 — 71

Waverly-S.R. 9 21 9 16 — 55

3-point goals — Charles City 4 (Molstead 3, Cranshaw), Waverly-Shell Rock 8 (Farmer 2, Halverson 2, Hansen 2, Pruhs, Angel). Total fouls — Charles City 14, Waverly-Shell Rock 22. Fouled out — none.

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