Men’s basketball has late game lead slip through fingers, fall to Wartburg

by Brock Borgeson

INDIANOLA, Iowa – Simpson College men’s basketball lead with as few as a 2:16 in the second half, up 65-64, as Wartburg College outscored the Storm 10-2 in the final three minutes to take the 74-67 win at Cowles Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Charles Swain tallied a season high 25 points for the Storm, although the rest of the Storm team shot only 13-41 from the floor giving Wartburg the window to win a game that was very much within grasp for Simpson.

“This is a game we could have won,” head coach Charles Zanders said. “We didn’t play well enough to be in the game against Central on Wednesday, but tonight we could have won this game.”

Both teams hung neck and neck, as there were 17 lead changes and seven ties as no team lead by more than eight, which was Simpson at the 10:32 mark in the first half.

Wartburg crawled back and erased Simpson’s eight-point lead, going into the half with a 35-33 lead after Dan Van Groningen hit a go-ahead layup with 57 seconds left in the half for the Knights.

It was a see-saw battle throughout the rest of the second half as the teams traded places leading.

At 65-64 with 2:15 remaining, freshman guard, Nate Woeste, hit the go-ahead jumper to give Wartburg the 66-65 lead, a lead they’d never relinquish.

“At the end of the day, the kid that killed us was Woeste,” head coach Charles Zanders said.

After two Van Groningen free throws, Simpson found themselves down 68-65 with 1:22 left in the game.

At that point, Zanders entered freshman Jamie Montgomery into the game, looking for another man capable of hitting a 3-pointer.

19 seconds later, Montgomery found himself open, with the ball behind the arc.

The freshman showed no signs of hesitation and put the shot up, although unfortunately for Simpson it clanked off the side of the rim as Woeste was there to gobble up the rebound.

“We wanted Jamie to shoot that ball,” Zanders said. “When we recruited him we said you came here to shoot the basketball. He got separation and is one of our best shooters, thus I would roll the dice on that every time.”

Woeste would follow up his rebound with three more points as Wartburg tacked on another two from Nick Webber coming on free throws to ice the game away with 16 seconds remaining.

Wartburg (11-8, 4-4) would finish with four players in double-figures in points, with Nick Webber scoring a team-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds.

Clay Cook posted a 12 point, 12 rebound double-double as Nate Woeste scored 16 points while running a Wartburg offense that shot 49.1 percent for the game.

“They’re tough and it was hard to leave guys because they’re all shooters,” Zanders said.

While no player was taller than 6’6” for Wartburg, the Knights outrebounded Simpson (6-13, 1-7) 43-26, contributing to 11-second chance points for Wartburg.

“The kicker was the second chance points,” Zanders said. “We lost by seven and we gave up 11 second chance points; that’s the difference.”

Austin Turner notched 10 points as Dillon Gretzky added 11, although nine of those 11 came in the first half.

What really hurt Simpson’s cause was their play in the post as their big men, Leif Olson, Cort Singleton, Cody Isabel and Vaughn Wilson only generated five points in 37 minutes of action.

“It was hard for us to feed the post because they weren’t guarding DJ,” Zanders said.

With the loss, Simpson drops their sixth straight, not being on the winning side of things since Jan. 10 against Buena Vista.

The Storm will head to Decorah for an 8 p.m. tipoff with Luther College this Wednesday, Feb. 4 as they look to dig themselves out of the basement of the Iowa Intercollege Athletic Conference.

Last time out the Norse erased a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Simpson, 62-56 back at Cowles Fieldhouse in Indianola.