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CEDAR RAPIDS — Twisting and spinning, Miles Wentzien hit a short two-point jump shot as time winded down on the shot clock late in the second half to finally put Kirkwood up double-digits.
Throughout the evening, the Eagles’ guard had caught fire and was making the Iowa Lakes defenders simply look silly in the Eagles’ 97-84 win in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region XI tournament. He finished with 29 points, including four made 3-pointers.
Wentzien’s massive game was just the type of boost Kirkwood (25-6) needed.
“We really realized that we have a lot of good individuals in the room, but if we don’t play together it doesn’t work,” Wentzien said. “We played together tonight.”
A back-and-forth game throughout the night, Kirkwood wasn’t able to pull away until right around the four-minute mark. Lakers Coach Troy Larson was called for a technical with his team down 73-70.
The Eagles nailed both of the free throws and then hit a 3-pointer, stretching the lead to 78-70. Iowa Lakes wasn’t able to get any closer, meaning Kirkwood gets the date with No. 1 ranked Southwestern in the region championship Saturday.
Scoring in a number of different ways, the Eagles hit 12 of 25 3-pointers and got to the free-throw line 39 times, making 29. There was a calculated flow to the offense, especially in the second half.
The Eagles trailed 43-41 at the half and it certainly looked like Iowa Lakes was going to make things interesting. There were 17 lead changes and 10 ties during the game, but it was also the type of game a basketball player lives for.
“It’s great, we had great support, great crowd,” Wentzien said. “It was fun and we got to show all the work we’ve put in tonight.”
All five Kirkwood starters were in double figures, with Byron Harp putting up 18 and Chris King 14 to lead the rest of the Eagles. As a team, Kirkwood had just five turnovers and forced the Lakers into 12. Wentzien had five steals to lead the team.
There was quite a bit of flow to the offense and passing the ball was key to Kirkwood’s offense. With assists on 21 of 28 made baskets, Kirkwood Coach Bryan Peterson was happy to see his team taking lessons he’d been preaching to heart.
“We made the right pass and we shared the basketball tonight,” Peterson said. “Our guys bought into it, we’ve been preaching toughness and togetherness and we did it on both ends of the floor.”
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