Central City junior Nick Reid’s 76-point performance against East Buchanan back on Feb. 4 shocked and amazed the Iowa basketball world for a great many reasons. At the top of that list was the fact that his performance represented the highest scoring output by an Iowa prep player in 90 years and stands as the second highest tally ever.
One group that may have not been as surprised to hear about the feat were the young Wildcats of Maquoketa Valley, who had faced Reid’s Wildcats twice during the regular season and witnessed his ability firsthand as the two teams split their season series.
When the District 6 pairings were released, the two Wildcat programs would be set to break that tie a mere 10 days after Reid’s very historic night. The Tri-Rivers Conference foes were destined to settle things once and for all in the Edgewood-Colesburg High School gymnasium with the season on the line, Feb. 15.
When the time came, Reid didn’t surpass 30 points on the night. Even so, Central City (11-11) managed to cruise past MV, by virtue of a 55-33 victory, to advance to the semifinals.
“Our game plan going in was the same it has been all season, to do everything we could to not let Reid score,” MV head coach Eric Conner said. “We talked about it, we said we would live or die by that plan if we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”
That game plan worked for as long as one quarter of play, at least. MV held Reid to just two points through the second quarter that night, but the six-foot-six star opened up in the second to finish with 26 points and 14 rebounds on the night. His teammate, Ethan Tye, stepped up to add another 18 strictly off three pointers.
“(Tye) is on the scouting report and we knew it, we’d played them enough to have a good idea about what we were up against. Even if he scores 18, though, if we were able to hold him and Reid enough to keep them under 50 points, we would’ve put ourselves in a position to come out ahead. We just didn’t take care of the basketball enough. The wheels started coming off in the second quarter and we didn’t give our best shot defensively in the fourth,” Conner said.
The game started off slow for both teams, with Central City holding onto an 11-8 lead after one. MV’s Andrew Holtz would hit a long range shot to tie it at 11 with about six minutes left until halftime, but Tye stepped up and responded with a three of his own in the very next possession.
Two minutes later, Central City had doubled the deficit to take a 22-11 advantage. A pair of three-pointers from MV sophomore Owen Mensen and AJ Ambundo would cut that to 25-17, and senior Brian Heims would secure a second chance bucket to shrink that lead to six with just under a minute left in the half.
Central City responded by making a handful of shots in the waning moments of the quarter before Reid nailed a buzzer beater that would serve as an omen of things to come in the second half of play. As the teams headed to their respective locker rooms, the score was 32-21.
MV didn’t score another point for the entire third quarter, with a series of fouls sending Reid to the line multiple times. As they entered the final quarter, Central City had already stolen the game, 45-21.
If there was a bright spot for MV, it could be seen in the way Heims responded as his high school basketball career was nearing its conclusion. The MV big man dug deep to put his team on the board for the very first time in the second half early in the fourth. With 4:30 left on the clock, he snatched a breakaway for another two points. Thirty seconds later, he drew the and-one to make it 50-28.
“Heims plays hard nosed no matter what, and it was really fun to coach him for that aspect. He’s going to do everything he can to give the team a chance,” Conner said.
The valiant effort was a far cry from being enough to help MV get the comeback train started, however. Heims kept his intensity up, but Central City proceeded to buckle down to secure the 55-33 victory as the buzzer sounded.
“After the game, we spent some time in the locker room talking about our future,” Conner said. “We thanked our seniors and let them know that we appreciate how they led us, helped us play as team, helped set the stepping stones for us to build off in the summer and beyond.”
Heims finished with a team-best 10 points and 12 rebounds. Mensen closed out his upstart sophomore campaign with seven points, five rebounds and two assists, while Holtz added another six.
Central City capitalized heavily off turnovers, as MV gave up 17 points off 11 of them. The Wildcats of Delhi would come out of the matchup with a 33-26 rebounding advantage — one of few immediately evident positives for a rebuilding Wildcat program that will look to develop players like Holtz, Mensen and Ambundo into a competitor in the coming years.
“The corner will turn for us. It’s going to take some work in the offseason, but the foundation is there,” Conner said.