The final moment will be hard for the Tigers to forget.
Marshalltown Community College men’s basketball coach Brynjar Brynjarsson hopes his squad remembers the focus and effort that got them there.
Rallying back from a 12-point deficit, Indian Hills’ Ronald Ross buried a 35-footer at the buzzer as the NJCAA Division I No. 8-ranked Warriors escaped with a 80-77 victory over the Tigers in an Iowa Community College Athletic Conference contest Saturday night at the Student Activity Center.
“I told the guys they’ve got every reason to be down about what happened,” Brynjarsson said. “But they also have more reasons to be extremely proud of how hard they played.”
After scoring the game’s opening bucket, the Warriors (21-2, 4-0) trailed the entire contest until Ross hit a floater to put Indian Hills ahead 74-73 with 1:19 to play.
The lead changed hands twice more as MCC’s Cameron Robinson and IHCC’s Richard Amardi each sank a pair from the line. After Jelan Kendrick made 1-of-2 for the Warriors, Robinson made two more at the line with 2.8 seconds to play and the game seemingly headed for overtime.
Then Ross caught the ball just past midcourt and got a shot off over the outstretched arm of Robinson as the Warrior fans erupted.
“If you let (Ross) shoot that again with Cameron Robinson right there contesting it from 35-40 feet, he’ll probably make it one out of 10 times,” Brynjarsson said. “Well, he made it that time, but we just have to keep our focus. We can’t lose our focus because of one play.”
The Tigers (15-6, 0-4) were focused from the opening tip and held their own against the taller and bigger Warriors, while also winning a majority of 50-50 balls.
Troidell Carter paced MCC early with 14 of the team’s first 28 points and Chris Caird later added a 3 to give the Tigers a 38-29 lead with 3:11 left in the half. The Tigers took the nine-point advantage into the locker room at 44-35.
Carter tallied all 18 of his points in the first half, while Caird led all scorers with 26 including a 4-for-7 effort from beyond the arc.
The Tigers were dealt a blow early in the second half when Carter picked up his fourth foul at the 14:22 mark as the Warriors scored seven straight to pull within 49-46.
Marlon Williams stepped up off the bench with five points during a 13-2 surge from the Tigers’ as Matej Delinac’s layup gave the Tigers their largest lead at 61-49 with 11:07 remaining.
“Marlon stepped in and gave us a huge lift,” Brynjarsson said. “Every guy that came in really helped and their focus was tremendous.”
A triple from Caird countered an 8-2 flurry from Indian Hills, but the Warriors followed with six unanswered points to draw within 66-62 with just more than five and half minutes to go.
The Tigers would lead by six once more but the Warriors controlled the boards down the stretch and cashed in on some second chance points. Jameel McKay’s putback brought the Tigers within one with 2:06 left before Ross hit the go-ahead less than a minute later.
“The glass was huge key we talked about, and down the stretch they got us a little bit,” Brynjarsson said. “It’s not a 36-minute game on the glass, it’s 40. We’ve got to put a body on them and make them come over us.”
Williams finished with 12 points, while Caird had seven rebounds and Raheim Holloway dished out five assists. Delinac chipped in nine points.
McKay led the Warriors to their seventh straight win with 22 points and 10 boards, while Ross scored 19 points and Richard Amardi added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Other than some late lapses on the boards, which led to a 48-32 rebounding edge for the Warriors, Brynjarsson had plenty of positives to take away from the night after sifting through the final result.
The Warriors (29-of-69) and Tigers (28-of-68) were nearly identical in shooting, though the Tigers held Indian Hills well below their season scoring average of 102.4 points a game. While the Warriors thrive with their fast-break attack and full-court press, MCC was able to keep the former in check most of the way, while navigating the latter throughout as both teams turned the ball over 13 times. MCC was clutch from the line making 16-of-18, while the Warriors shot 19-for-33.
Despite losing for the fourth time in their last five games, the Tigers feel they’re headed in the right direction.
“We’ve picked it back up from the beginning of the season,” MCC point guard Raheim Holloway said. “We fell off for a couple games, but we feel we can compete with anyone in the conference. We need to keep up the same intensity we had tonight. (Ross) just hit a tough shot.”
That’s exactly the message Brynjarsson wants his team to take away.
“Tonight our team was taking what we wanted them to do, putting it on the floor and playing as hard as they needed to,” Brynjarsson said. “It wasn’t picture perfect but they played hard. We played with an extreme sense of urgency and knew our roles. We’ve got to keep that focus now for the last nine games and then a playoff game.”
The Tigers hit the road to battle Iowa Lakes Monday with tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
In conjunction with the Coaches vs. Cancer project, $2,363.40 was raised for the American Cancer Society through Marshall County Relay for Life. … Indian Hills placed seventh at the national tournament last year and has made nine appearances overall including a trio of titles from 1997-99. … Five Warriors have already signed to play NCAA Division I basketball next season including Jameel McKay (Marquette), Jelan Kendrick (UNLV) and Trinson White (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) while both Dustin Hogue and Richard Armadi have signed with Iowa State. … The University of Iowa is among the seven schools Warriors sophomore Frank Williams Jr. is considering according to a report from Hoops Juco. … Following their win over Kansa State, Iowa State’s Will Clyburn and Chris Babb were in attendance.