MALVERN - Nursing a one-point lead with just over a minute remaining in the East Mills team Class 1A district opener against Riverside on Thursday, basketball coach Kevin Schafer went to an old bag of tricks.
Following a timeout, and leading 43-42 with the ball, the Wolverines came out in an old school, three-man, dribble weave on offense that Schafer hadn’t used all year.
“We weren’t going to shoot unless we had a layup,” said Schafer.
Turns out, the Wolverines didn’t have to. Riverside fouled Jake Doyle with 22 seconds left and the senior hit both free throws to seal East Mills’ 45-42 victory before a reporter-estimated crowd of 700.
“We had our big guy (Jake Bolton) stationed in the lane so we always had an outlet. We were hoping they would foul with the ball in Jake (Doyle’s) hands and they did,” said Schafer of his team’s final minute. “He hit both shots which was really clutch.”
The weave wasn’t Schafer’s only last minute switch. After the Bulldogs used a timeout to set up a shot with :19 remaining, Schafer used the timeout to pull his team out of the 2-3 zone they had played all game to a tight man-to-man. That switch worked too as the Bulldogs’ play appeared to be set for the Wolverines’ zone defense. Bryce Boragary’s rushed three-point clanged off the rim as time expired.
“We switched to man-to-man to throw them off a bit. You could tell their play was set up for a zone. We just basically switched on everything and made sure we had a hand in their face. I was nervous when the ball was in the air. It wasn’t a very good shot but it looked good,” said Schafer.
The way the Wolverines closed out their second quarter, it didn’t look like a last-second shot by either team would be a factor.
Trailing 17-15 with just over four minutes remaining in the first half, Doyle nailed a three-pointer to put East Mills ahead. A pair of Riverside turnovers sandwiched around a Bolton layup led to another Doyle three-pointer to give the Wolverines a 23-17 lead with 3:38 to go in the half.
Following a short jumper by the Bulldogs’ Ricky Williams, Doyle swished his fourth three pointer of the half, grabbed a steal on the defensive end and nailed a 15-footer to put East Mills ahead 28-19. A free throw by guard Luke Schafer gave the Wolverines a 29-19 lead at the half and capped a 14-4 run. Doyle scored 11 points in the run and led all scorers in the game with 24 points, hitting six three pointers.
“That first half, he carried us,” said Schafer of his senior guard.
The third quarter would be a reverse of the Wolverines’ second quarter run.
After Nathen Day’s layup to put them up 31-19 to open the third quarter, the Wolverines would hit just one more field goal (Schafer’s layup with 4:29 to go) the rest of the quarter.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the Wolverines’ offensive woes – missing seven straight shots at one point and turning it over six times in the quarter – to go on a 14-4 run of their own. Williams’ 15-footer with 1:06 in the quarter completed the Bulldogs’ comeback and knotted the score at 33-33 heading into the final frame.
The Wolverines finally found their first-half stroke in the fourth quarter but not until after the Bulldogs went up 35-33 on what would be Williams’ final field goal of the game. Two free throws by Doyle and a pair of three pointers by Doyle on the Wolverines’ next three possessions put East Mills up for good with 4:44 to go in the game. Doyle scored all 12 of the Wolverines’ fourth quarter points.
“I don’t know what happened in that third quarter,” said Schafer. “We’re too good of an offensive team to go through that. That’s what cost us, I think some of our kids thought we were giving up too many shots but if you look at the scoring they only had 33 points at the end of the third quarter. Our offensive was inept there for a while.
“We started getting tight and shooting too quick out of rhythm. Luckily we got out of that and Jake hit some big shots in the fourth quarter that gave us some confidence.”
Doyle, who scored 22 points in Wolverines’ Feb. 9 54-43 win over Riverside, finished with 24 points on 7-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-11 from behind the arc. Luke Schafer added nine points.
Williams led Riverside with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
The Wolverines hosted Council Bluffs St. Albert in a district semifinal last night in Malvern.