Wildcat games' endings fraught with tension

Eric Valdez shoots for Columbus during a 49-47 home loss to Louisa-Muscatine Friday. Photo by Doug Brenneman
Eric Valdez shoots for Columbus during a 49-47 home loss to Louisa-Muscatine Friday. Photo by Doug Brenneman

COLUMBUS JUNCTION — The end of Friday’s two Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division games between Columbus and Louisa-Muscatine were nail-biters for the Wildcats for completely different reasons.

The boys game could have yielded the Wildcats first win, but they fell short 49-47.

“That was fun,” Columbus boys coach Dave Lekwa said. “That was fun to coach, fun to watch and those kind of games are even more fun to play in. I enjoyed it. The boys enjoyed it. It certainly would’ve been better if we had won. It would’ve been more enjoyable.”

The girls game yielded something tastier in a 62-28 loss — coaches buying pizza and drinks.

“I told the girls if we scored 25 points that I would buy them pizza,” Columbus girls coach Katie Coil said. “That was our goal. Then my assistant coach (Dave Wittman) said if we got higher than that that he would buy the drinks.”

The Wildcats scored as much in the fourth quarter as the first three quarters combined. L-M and Columbus played the first game of the season at Letts with the Falcons winning 58-15.

“I guess I have to bribe my girls with food,” Coil said. “This was way better than the first time we played them. This was a big improvement for us.”

The visitors employed a full-court press during the first-quarter to build a 28-4 lead that was 33-8 at the half and 46-14 starting the fourth.

“I expected that press because that’s what they did when we played them there,” Coil said. “We knew it was going to happen. We worked on it (Thursday) in practice. They usually do a 1-3-1 press but they came out with a man and we were not expecting that. It is what it is. We will just try to improve.”

Lizbeth Paz led the way for the Wildcats with a 10-point game while Jobie Lekwa added eight points, seven rebounds and three steals. Olivia Carrier tallied four points. Michelle Diaz, Ingrid Montero and Emma Milder each scored two points.

The boys game saw the Wildcats score 10 straight points to lead 10-5, but trail 15-14 at the end of the first quarter, 34-25 at the half, then give up the first five points of the third quarter to trail 39-25 and 41-31 after the frame. Columbus scored the last two points of the third and the first seven points of the fourth quarter but it took 5 minutes, 20 seconds to do it.

“Our defense in the second half was pretty good,” Coach Lekwa said. “I think the biggest issue we had was the first part of the third quarter. We turned them over a few times. We got some stops. We never scored off any of that. That was where we needed to take advantage if we were going to win the game.”

The frenetic play of the last half of the fourth quarter ignited the fans in the gym and the roar from the crowd when Bawi Uk drained a 3-pointer from the corner with 15 seconds left to make the score 48-47 surely melted any ice on the roof of the gym.

“That was huge,” Coach Lekwa said. “He gets the most out of his minutes. I’m proud of that shot and I’m proud of him. He’s spent a lot of time with me in the gym this summer. I hope seeing that shot go in was rewarding for him considering all the hours spent the summer. He’s a great kid. That was a gutsy shot.”

Brody Frost had nailed two 3-pointers late.

“Frost is one of our better 3-point shooters,” Coach Lekwa said. “He got cold in the middle of the game. He had some good looks. We are willing to live with those misses.”

While Frost was hitting from downtown, L-M was going 2 for 7 at the foul line from the 2:30 mark of the game to the 1:10 mark.

“We were trying to strategically foul,” Coach Lekwa said. “We had a list of who we were trying to get. We wanted to put our press on that we had been using all night to get a steal and then fall back and foul who we wanted to foul. It kind of worked and it kind of didn’t. We got some opportunities out of it. It allowed us to get closer. We were certainly trying.”

L-M made 1 of 2 free throws with :08 left.

Lekwa called time before the second free throw.

“We wanted to be sure to rebound and get the ball up court quick, get our guards in the corners and kick the ball ahead,” he said. “We were not able to do that, but we got a shot off which we wanted to get. It didn’t fall. We got what we wanted, not exactly but we got a shot up and it was a shot we are willing to take.”

Evan Rees’ 16-footer just missed left. Rees finished with 10 points while Eric Valdez put in 14 points. Frost and Mason Hodges totaled nine points each.

“We are in good shape if the ball is in Valdez’ hands,” Coach Lekwa said. “He has good instincts. He’s our best passer. I think he’s one of the best in the conference.”

The Columbus boys team is 0-12 overall, 0-8 North while the girls are 1-11, 1-8. Both teams play at Mediapolis Tuesday.

“I’m happy with the boys’ play,” Coach Lekwa said. “We just got three of them back, so they are still getting themselves in game mode, still working on getting the rhythm. But they are upperclassman so they need to be there. We are We’re making progress. Our press looked good. We felt we could get some energy out of our press and I think we did. We did not get the turnovers out of it we wanted, but we got some energy out of it and that’s what we’ve been lacking.”