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WATERLOO — Waterloo West’s coaches warned the Wahawks that free throws would likely play a key role in Tuesday night’s Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ basketball battle against Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

They couldn’t have been more correct.

Kennedy hit 16 of 18 from the line and that proved to be the difference in a 60-54 win over West at Siddens Gymnasium.

“We told the guys before the game that this would probably come down to free throws and to not make the mistakes,” West coach Cliff Berinobis said.

“To be honest, we did a poor job coaching and getting them ready. We were clumsy at times and we did not execute when we needed to. At the end of the day that all comes back on me. We did not have the mental toughness we needed tonight.”

After a back-and-forth first half, Kennedy took a slim, 26-24 edge into halftime.

The Wahawks put a run together to begin the third period as junior guard DaQuavion Walker popped in a trio of 3-pointers, but West couldn’t separate from the Cougars.

Walker nailed another long range 3 to tie the game at 45-45 with five minutes remaining.

“We would get it going but then lose our focus for some reason,” Walker said. “I think they executed a little better than we did and our focus just was not there. I put that on us, not on the coaches. We knew what we had to do and we have the talent to do it. It is a mental game and we need to be tougher.”

With Walker keeping the game tight on the way to a 16-point night, the Cougars got more physical and that led the Wahawks into foul trouble.

“I can count at least 10 different possessions in that half where we had no idea what was going on,” said a disgruntled Berinobis. “We were not in position and we cannot have that and I need to do a better job of getting these guys ready to play.”

The Cougars got a big game from 6-foot-5 guard Jack Wetzel, who recorded 25 points to lead all scorers. Tyler Andrews connected on 11 of his 12 free throw attempts and finished the game with 15 points.

The Cougars hit 14 of 16 from the stripe in the second half, with nine coming in the fourth quarter.

“This game was on the players,” said Walker. “We need to get together and get serious about this. We need to start playing together as a team for the whole game.”

C.R. Kennedy 60, West 54

C.R. KENNEDY (5-3, 4-3) — Jack Wetzel 9 3-4 25, Tyler Andrews 2 11-12 15, Trey Sheets 5 0-0 12, Zach Drahos 1 0-0 2, Caleb Schlaak 1 0-0 2, Michael Gallagher 0 0-0 0, Grant Griffin 0 0-0 0, Cole Werling 0 0-0 0, Ben Koester 0 2-2 2, Noah Gloede 0 0-0 0, Thomas Vanek 0 0-0 0, Makhi Harris 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-18 60.

WATERLOO WEST (6-3, 4-3) — DaQuavion Walker 5 2-3 16, Sebastian Gunderson 0 0-0 0, Mondre Lagow 0 0-0 0, Caleb Haag 8 0-0 17, Isaiah Johnson 2 3-6 9, Antonio Alexander Jr. 2 3-5 7, Jaden Keller 2 1-3 5, Mitch Fordyce 0 0-0 0, Amar Kuljuhovic 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 9-17 54.

C.R. Kennedy 9 17 16 18 — 60

Wat. West 7 17 15 15 — 54

3-point goals — Kennedy 6 (Wetzel 4, Sheets 2), West 7 (Walker 4, Johnson 2, Haag). Total fouls — Kennedy 18, West 17. Fouled out — Griffin, Alexander Jr.

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