CEDAR FALLS — Just in time for Christmas dinner, Class 4A’s No. 9-ranked Cedar Falls appears to have found a recipe for success.
Smooth rotations choreographed with timely traps allowed Cedar Falls’ defense to slow down Waterloo East throughout an 81-43 boys’ basketball victory Friday night at Cedar Falls High School.
“I like how we’re starting to buy into playing team defense,” Cedar Falls coach Ryan Schultz said, after his team took advantage of 19 turnovers and held the Trojans to 18 of 50 shooting with just seven free throw attempts. “We’re not getting locked into, ‘This is my guy, this is your guy.’ I think we’re really getting good at bringing a defensive game plan to the floor. Our rotations are starting to look pretty good.
“Buying in at that end of the floor set the tone for us tonight and it allows us to be a little more efficient at the other end, too.”
Similar to every opponent of East (5-2) this season, Cedar Falls (6-1) made sure Trojans’ point guard Tyrese Nickelson was the focal point of the game plan. Logan Wolf — a 6-foot-4 dual sport athlete who plans to play both football and basketball at the University of Northern Iowa — served as the primary defender on Nickelson with plenty of assistance.
East’s standout was held to a season-low four points after averaging 30 through the Trojans’ first six games and scoring 47 in their only previous loss. Ramon Harrington’s 13 points accounted for the only consistent offense within an East team that only dressed seven players.
“We didn’t let him get any clean looks,” Wolf said, addressing the Tigers’ collaborative effort on his basketball club teammate Nickelson. “He’s a good guy so it was fun to play against him.
“It’s always fun to play a good team, an athletic team and I think we just played a lot better than they did tonight. We came in with a game plan and executed well.”
In addition to showcasing a strong blend of length and athleticism on defense, Cedar Falls found a variety of sources for baskets inside the paint and on the perimeter. Five Tigers finished with at least 10 points and seven scored at least eight.
Joshua Ollendieck dropped in all eight of his points in the first quarter as Cedar Falls opened the game on a 10-0 run. Jaxon Heth added nine points on three 3-pointers off the bench, while center Jack Campbell finished a perfect 6-for-6 from the field with two dunks and three free throws for a game-high 15 points.
Campbell’s frontcourt back-up Chase Courbat added 12 points, stretch forward Jackson Frericks finished with 13, and guards Wolf and Mason Abbas tallied 11 and 10, respectively.
“I think it’s hard to prepare for when we have that many guys out there, even guys that are coming off the bench that have the ability to score in different ways,” Schultz said. “We have an inside game, an outside game and we’re bringing shooters off the bench.”
Class 4A’s defending state champion Tigers have now won their last six games, outscoring their last three Mississippi Valley Conference opponents by an average of 27 points.
“After our first loss against West we knew we were better than that,” Wolf said, addressing an overtime setback that accounted for his team’s only defeat. “Our practices have gotten better. As a group we’ve come together and gotten better. Our defense has improved immensely. We’re taking better shots and making shots. I think it’s all one big thing coming together.”
Entering the holiday break, these Tigers now have a good feel for who they are as a team.
“Coming off last year I didn’t know what our identity would be,” Schultz said. “We’re starting to kind of find that as a team and that’s nice to see. I really want our identity to be at the defensive end. We’re starting to really buy into that and our kids are playing really well.”
Cedar Falls 81, East 43
WATERLOO EAST (5-2) — Tyrese Nickelson 1-8 2-2 4, Ramir Scott 3-10 0-0 7, Ramon Harrington 6-13 1-3 13, Tavious Jenkins 4-8 0-0 8, Jordan Wise 3-6 2-2 8, Davon Higgins 0-3 0-0 0, Craig Willingham 0-0 0-0 0, Deavonte Woods 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 18-50 5-7 43.
CEDAR FALLS (6-1) — Joshua Ollendieck 3-6 0-0 8, Logan Wolf 4-12 3-4 11, Mason Abbas 5-10 0-0 10, Jackson Frericks 6-12 0-1 13, Jack Campbell 6-6 3-5 15, Chase Courbat 6-11 0-0 12, Ben Sernett 0-3 0-0 0, Jaxon Heth 3-6 0-0 9, Cael Loecher 0-0 2-2 2, Dylan Wells 0-1 0-0 0, Nnamdi Onuigbo 0-1 0-0 0, Tenchi Porter 1-1 0-0 2, Jack Moody 0-1 0-0 0, Evan Stolz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-71 7-12 81.
Wat. East 8 15 14 6 — 43
Cedar Falls 18 22 22 19 — 81
3-point goals — East 2 (Scott, Woods), CF 5 (Heth 3, Ollendieck 2). Total fouls — East 12, CF 13. Fouled out — none.