Coe Drops Heartbreaker in IIAC Finals

Courtesy: Coe College Athletics

Coe's Nathan Joens (15, left) and Andrew Wirth (3) squeeze Buena Vista's Michael Kaufmann (5) in the first half of their Iowa Conference Tournament Championship game on Saturday, February 25, 2012, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By James Steward

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Iowa Conference regular season Champion Coe College couldn't overcome an off shooting night in the tournament championship game, as they fell 54-52 to second-seeded Buena Vista Saturday night.

The Kohawks jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the first 4:07 of the game, but that would be their largest lead of the game. Junior Seth Light (Carlisle, Iowa/Carlisle) scored on a layup with 10:16 to play in the first half to give Coe a 16-12 lead, but the Beavers used a 16-3 run in the next 7:42 to take a 28-19 lead with 1:30 to play in the half. Coe went just under eight minutes without a point during the stretch. Coe would cut the lead to six with :57 to play on an old-fashioned 3-point play from Light, but the Beavers added two points on a pair of free throws from Jeff Janssen with :00.3 on the clcok to take a 30-22 lead at the break.

Senior Kevin Gaster (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Jefferson) hit a pair of free throws :19 into the second half, as Coe opened the final frame on an 18-4 run in the first 8:48. The Kohawks took a 40-34 lead with 11:12 to play on a jumper in the paint from Gaster, completing a 9-0 run to end the big run. Just like the first half, the Beavers had an answer with a 9-0 run in the next 3:35, as Buena Vista took a 43-40 lead with 7:12 to play. Light would then score Coe's next eight points, as they took a 48-46 lead with 4:30 to play.

Light's layup and free throw with 4:30 to play would be the final field goal of the game for the Kohawks, as Buena Vista regained the lead for good with a 7-0 run in the next 2:19. With 1:38 to play, Gaster hit two free throws, cutting the lead to three. After a Beaver turnover, junior David Mataloni (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws with just over a minute to play. Mataloni connected on both, as the Beaver lead was cut to one at 53-52 with 1:03 to play.

With :32 remaining, Gaster stripped the ball from Buena Vista's Michael Elming, giving Coe the chance to take the lead. Mataloni had a jumper blocked by the Beaver's West Nordquist with :21 to play. Mataloni then fouled Nordquist, where he missed the first free throw and hit the second. Coe called a timeout with :14 to play, setting up a jumper from Mataloni with :04 to play. After the miss, junior Nathan Joens (Swisher, Iowa/Xavier) grabbed the rebound, kicking it out to sophomore Andrew Wirth (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls) on the top of the key. Wirth's attempt from downtown hit the front rim, then the back rim, before rattling out, giving the Beavers the 54-52 victory.

Light led three Kohawks in double figures with 18 points apiece. Mataloni and junior Garrett Cross (Spring Grove, Minn./Spring Grove) joined Light with 10 points apiece. Mataloni finished the seaon with 428 points, the 12th most in school history. With five points on the night, Wirth went over the 500 point mark for his career, while his 65 3-pointers this year are the sixth most in school history. Janssen led the Beavers with 14 points.

Joens finished with a career-high 11 rebounds and three steals. Light nearly missed a double-double with nine rebounds, while Mataloni added six boards. Gaster had game-high three assists, while Mataloni had two. Light and freshman JT Vonderhaar (Bettendorf, Iowa/Assumption) each blocked two shots, a career-high for Vonderhaar. Light moved into third on the career blocked shots list with 68. Gaster added three steals, while Light and Mataloni had two.

Coe shot a season-low 26.7 percent from the field, while the Beavers shot just 36 percent.

The Kohawks finished the season 19-8 overall and 12-4 in the Iowa Conference. Nine players that saw action in the championship game return to the team next year, including four starters.
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