LAMONI — Former local prep standouts Jay Wolfe of Creston and Jackson Lamb of Nodaway Valley play in a system suited to their strengths for (NAIA) 18th-ranked Briar Cliff this season.
In Tuesday’s 72-69 road victory at Graceland University, the Chargers shot 41 3-pointers and only 16 shots from 2-point range. The Chargers shot 41.5 percent from behind the arc (17 of 41) and 7 of 16 on 2-point shots in holding off the Yellowjackets.
Leading the way in that long-range attack were the 6-foot-4 sharpshooters, Wolfe and Lamb. Playing all but 62 seconds of the 40 minutes, Wolfe finished with a team-high 22 points (6-9 on triples), a team-high six rebounds and four assists. Wolfe, averaging 26 points and 9.0 rebounds after the Chargers’ first two games, played the entire second half.
Lamb, who played sparingly last year as a freshman, now starts at the three guard position as Wolfe has moved from the three to the two guard spot. Lamb was 3 of 4 from behind the arc early in the second half and finished with 20 points (17 in the second half) including six triples, five rebounds and one steal. In a combined 72 minutes on the floor, Wolfe and Lamb had no turnovers in a style under first-year coach Mark Svagera designed to push the pace.
In fact, the Graceland team including 6-8 center Jeremy Deemer of Lamoni overcame early deficits of 9-1 and 20-9 to take a 26-24 lead over Briar Cliff when a zone defense slowed the Charger attack. Deemer ended with five points and five rebounds.
“They kind of slowed the game down when they mixed up defenses and we want to get out and go,” said Wolfe, a two-time 800-meter state champion in track for the Panthers. “In that respect it was a good game for us, a good experience. Jackson got hot for us there in the second half.”
Wolfe and point guard Erich Erdman seemed to garner a lot of the Yellowjackets’ attention on defense after halftime, as they were the Chargers’ scoring leaders at the break. Lamb had only three points in the first half.
“I think they started to focus on Erich and Jay a lot, and I was open,” Lamb said. “Once you see that first one go in, then you have confidence. I’m kind of the play finisher. Jay and Erich are good playmakers, and if they kick it to me I try to be the finisher.”
Erdman, 5-11 junior guard from Forest City, finished with 14 points and eight assists.
Wolfe and Lamb said they enjoy having more time on the court together this year.
“Last year I came in for him, so I really didn’t get to play with him much,” Lamb said. “It’s a blast this year. I feel like I get more in the flow of things.”
As a junior, Wolfe has taken on a bigger role for the Chargers. Last year he played about 28 to 30 minutes a game while averaging 10.5 and 5.1 rebounds a game. Both numbers are way up this year, and as an upperclassman he’s gained respect from his teammates.
“I’m just trying to be more of a leader, both vocally and leading by example,” Wolfe said. “Obviously, I’m having to score a little bit more and be more of a playmaker on offense. I’m mostly at the two-guard, but I can play anywhere. When we went small I played the five (forward) for awhile.”
Briar Cliff is the two-time reigning Great Plains Athletic Conference regular season champion and one of the favorites again this season. Northwestern topped the Chargers in the conference tournament finals last year, and both teams went into national tournament play. Briar Cliff was defeated by Bellevue University in the first round.
“We’re hoping for a top spot and get back to the national tournament again,” Lamb said. “Northwestern has a really good guard back and we know they will be good again.”
“We want to be at the top of the GPAC for sure,” Wolfe said.
Briar Cliff has another upcoming game within an hour’s drive of Creston. The Chargers play at Grand View University at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.
The next game is at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Friends University in the home opener inside the Newman Flanagan Center on the Briar Cliff campus in Sioux City.
Graceland, now 2-3, is at home again Thursday against Barclay College at 7 p.m.