Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MAQUOKETA - They say slow and steady wins the race. That was exactly how No. 4 Easton Valley beat New London on Saturday evening. The River Hawks would never let the Tiger boys basketball team get the engine started, holding New London to its lowest point total in the season to knock the Tigers out 61-43.
'We figured they would try and slow us down,” said New London head coach Bryant Poter. 'But I felt like we didn't execute our fast break at all.”
The River Hawks sat in a zone defense all night long to bring a fiery New London offense to a screeching halt. On the other end, Easton Valley attacked the Tigers inside, utilizing senior big man Kaleb Cornilsen, who finished the night with 22 points and 14 rebounds to gut the Tigers from the inside out.
But it wasn't just Cornilsen's numbers that gave the Tigers fits. He also worked to take Tiger standout Kade Benjamin out of the game, drawing foul after foul inside. The sophomore stud had four fouls and no points in the opening three quarters, earning the River Hawks plenty of time to execute a barrage of inside buckets.
'He just went up against a senior who knew how to get position,” said Coach Porter. 'It bit us tonight.”
Cornilsen also battled a bit of early foul trouble. Blaise Porter and Camden Kasel each drew a first-half foul on the River Hawks' star, giving him two early in the second quarter, but the Tigers just couldn't seem to get the third, and he was able to stay in the game almost all night long.
'That was the plan,” said Coach Porter, eluding to getting Cornilsen in foul trouble. 'I felt like they were just always in position.”
Porter helped the Tigers stay in it in the first half. He had six points in the first quarter and three in the second to lead New London into the locker rooms with nine points. Kasel and Devin Swanson scored five each in the first half, but that wasn't enough, as the River Hawks led 12-11 after one quarter and 28-21 at halftime.
New London's slowest offensive quarter came in the third. Lone senior Caydin Wahls had five points, including a zone-beating 3-pointer from the wing, but the Tigers as a whole scored just seven, and Easton Valley controlled the contest, leading 41-28 after three.
The Tigers scored a game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter, eight of which came from Porter. Benjamin reached the scoreboard on a put-back layup, and New London forced a few River Hawk turnovers, but the Tigers could never get the game back down into single digits.
'We just didn't get it done,” said Coach Porter.
Porter finished the night with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Kasel had eight. Swanson scored six points and coled the squad with five rebounds.
Wahls ended the game with five points and a team-high three assists. Benjamin still wound up with two points, five rebounds and three steals in limited minutes, and both Tayshun Donaldson and Bowen Glaha finished with two points. Kooper Schulte ended the night with two assists.
Despite a disappointing end to the season, a youthful Tiger squad made waves in 2020-21. New London finished the year 19-5 overall and 14-2 in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference South Division, winning the South outright and beating Pekin 71-54 for the SEISC Shootout championship. Coming into Saturday, New London had won nine games in a row.
'I'm super duper proud of these guys,” Coach Porter said. 'The scary thing is, (besides Wahls), they'll all be back next year.”
And Coach Porter doesn't discount the value in big-game experience that his young team will earn. He says the Tigers will learn from their deep postseason run as they gear up to be among the favorites in the area when next winter rolls around.
'You can't have good success without having the experience first,” Coach Porter said. 'This is a learning thing for them, and I think they're going to be fine.”