CLINTON — Travis Witt is back on a basketball court, and coach Joe Shovlain is happy to have him wearing a Clinton Community College uniform.
Playing in his first real game since the 2011-12 season ended for Prince of Peace, Witt made his debut for the Cougars on Wednesday night. He contributed eight points off the bench, but CCC fell that same number of points short in an 81-73 loss to Iowa Central at Yourd Gymnasium.
It feels great,” said Witt, a 6-foot-2 guard who had planned to give up basketball when he chose to attend Iowa State last year. He became eligible in the new year after transferring to CCC and sitting out the first semester. “I waited a whole semester for this.”
Shovlain is happy the wait is over, too.
“I think he’ll make us a much better team the second semester,” Shovlain said. “He brings lot of intangibles to the program. He has a positive attitude, and you don’t have to worry about him about a lot of things.”
Witt believes he can make an impact for the Cougars, who still are searching for their first win of the season.
“Energy ... and another body, too,” he said of what he’d bring to the squad. “We’re going to be low on numbers.”
The Cougars were down to seven players in uniform Wednesday — they are redshirting two players, which helps in practice — although that number should increase by one by Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against North Iowa Area Community College.
“We were missing Kimani Stevens,” Shovlain said, explaining that the bad weather conditions throughout much of the country prevented Stevens from flying back for the new semester from his home in the Virgin Islands. Stevens had started 11 of the team’s first 12 games and is averaging 6.8 points a game.
Witt, a second-team All-Area player as a senior while averaging 14.3 points a game and leading Prince of Peace in rebounds, assists and steals, made his first appearance at the 17-minute, 41-second mark of the first half.
“It took a half to get the rhythm down,” he said.
The Cougars (0-13) already trailed 6-2 when he came in, and they played from behind for all but 5 seconds of the game.
The Tritons (10-8) needed only those few seconds to control the opening tip and have Malik Brooks find Ky Kramer breaking to the basket for a layup and a 2-0 lead. Kramer, a 6-2 freshman from Cedar Rapids Jefferson, finished with 12 points. Dylan Travis led the Tritons with 20 points, while Javonte Young added 18.
Iowa Central pushed the lead to 10-3 before Clinton got back-to-back baskets by BeeJay Caleb (17 points) and Onterior Brown (15). Moments later, a 3-point basket by Trevon Gaines (11 points) made it a 14-10 game before the Tritons scored six in a row to establish their first double-digit lead.
They kept the lead in the 10-point range until the final 4:10 of the first half. Starting with a pair of free throws from Travis, the Tritons closed the half on a 12-6 run and went to the locker room leading 47-30.
The lead reached 49-30 when Young opened the second half with a driving basket, but after treading water for the six minutes, the Cougars made a surge of their own to make things interesting the rest of the way.
With Clinton trailing 55-37, Gaines started the comeback with a pair of 3-point baskets on each side of a basket by Kramer, then Samuel Bil (12 points) stuck in a trey from just left of the top of the key to cut the deficit to 57-46 with 11:56 remaining.
“When he gets hot, he makes them,” Shovlain said of Gaines. “He has a streaky shot.”
Clinton got within nine on a Caleb putback, then he blocked a shot at the other end and Bil electrified the crowd and his teammates at the other end with a thunderous dunk. He was fouled on the basket and made the free throw to make it a 57-51 game with 10:49 left.
“That’s a huge confidence-builder for that kid,” Shovlain said.
Iowa Central answered with baskets by Brooks and Jesse Jones to go up by 10, but a basket by Brown and two free throws from Witt cut it back to six, 61-55, with 7:59 remaining. A basket by Jones and two free throws by Travis pushed the lead back to 10, and Clinton got only as close as seven twice more — at 65-58 on a 3-pointer from Dione Blyden with 7:11 left and at 77-70 on a drive by Witt with 27 seconds remaining.
Although the Cougars couldn’t catch the Tritons, they did outscore them 43-34 in the second half.
“We won the second half,” Witt said, “now we have to translate that into winning the first half, too.”
They will try to do it in a January scheduled loaded with home games. Six of the seven January games take place at Yourd, which makes Witt happy.
“I hope we can keep the fans coming,” he said. “I broadcasted about this game to lots of people.”
IOWA CENTRAL CC 81, CLINTON CC 73
IOWA CENTRAL (10-8, 1-2) — Puot Kudhot 0 0-0 0, Winston Yergler 1 3-4 5, Jesse Jones 3 3-7 9, Ky Kramer 4 3-4 12, Javonte Young 8 2-2 18, Dylan Travis 6 6-7 20, Malik Brooks 4 1-2 9, Brandon Berry 2 0-0 5, Justin Lawler 0 0-0 0, Jasmin Biberovikj 1 1-4 3. Totals 29 19-30 81.
CLINTON (0-13, 0-4) — Trevon Gaines 4 0-0 11, Dione Blyden 2 1-2 6, Samuel Bil 4 1-1 12, Onterior Brown 7 0-0 15, BeeJay Caleb 8 0-0 17, Travis Witt 3 2-2 8, Alonzo Kyles 2 0-0 4. Totals 4-5 73.
Halftime — Iowa Central 47, Clinton 30. 3-point goals — Iowa Central 4 (Travis, Kramer, Berry); Clinton 9 (Gaines 3, Bil 3, Blyden, Brown, Caleb). Total fouls — Iowa Central 9, Clinton 21. Fouled out — None.
To see more photos from Wednesday's game, see the photo gallery at Clintonherald.smugmug.com.