Central wins on McKnight jumper after trailing by 12

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Guard Jamel McKnight's (senior, Austin, Texas, Hendrickson HS) step-back jumper with 3 seconds left capped a furious second-half comeback for an 83-81 Central College men's basketball victory at Luther College Saturday.
The Dutch (6-9 overall, 3-3 American Rivers Conference) trailed 69-57 with 9 minutes remaining before going on an 11-0 run to cut the gap to one point with 5:45 left. Luther (6-8 overall, 0-6 conference) regained command, however, taking a 77-70 lead with 4:18 left before Central finished with a 13-4 burst. McKnight and forward Seth Wood (junior, Branson, Mo.) hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Central up 81-79 with 51 seconds remaining but Luther tied it 30 seconds later and the Dutch called timeout. Central melted the clock down before McKnight drilled his shot from the left elbow. Wood then intercepted Luther's inbounds pass to seal it.
"We did it with defense down the stretch," coach Craig Douma said. "We had some really good stops and we made some clutch shots. A lot of guys made plays."
Guard Jaden Moody (junior, Cambridge, Ballard HS) had a game-high 21 points while Wood had 18 with 10 rebounds, guard Adam Flinn (sophomore, Wildwood, Mo., Lafayette HS) had 17 points and eight boards, guard Shimar Jones (senior, Marshall, Texas) had 10 points and forward Thomas Spoehr (freshman, Bennington, Neb.) had nine.
McKnight, who scored seven of his eight points in the final five minutes, had five assists. But Douma noted he drew a key defensive assignment as well.
"I told Jamel after the game that that was the best defense I've seen him play this year," he said.
The Dutch, still playing with a short bench, leaned heavily on their starters, with four playing 30 minutes or more. But Douma also cited reserve senior forward Mason Walter (Urbandale), who's had sparse playing time in his career.
"Mason played great minutes for us tonight," he said. "He had four rebounds in nine minutes but he also locked his guy up. That's a big confidence-booster."
Central outshot Luther 48.3 percent to 42.2 and outrebounded the Norse 39-31.
"We forced them into some tough shots and we rebounded the ball well," Douma said.
The game was tight throughout the first half, with Luther taking a 43-41 lead in the closing seconds of the first half. It was tied 49-49 with 16 minutes remaining before Luther took control with an 8-0 run. Yet Central maintained its poise.
"We grew up a lot tonight," Douma said. "We showed a lot of toughness. There's no magic formula for coming back like that. I told the players in a timeout that you're not going to get it all back at once, we just have to keep grinding at it and that's what we did."
Central takes on Simpson College Wednesday at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium in a league women's-men's doubleheader with the men's game starting at 8 p.m. Live stats and a video webcast can be accessed at athletics.central.edu. Simpson was off this weekend and brings a 9-5 overall record with a 3-3 league mark to Pella. The clubs split two games last year with each winning on its home floor.