Special day for Pilcher, Tritons

Dennis Pilcher has been coaching junior college basketball for 34 years, and the game he loves has produced many fond memories.

Saturday will certainly stand next to them all.

After Iowa Central permanently etched his name onto the court he’s called home for three decades, Pilcher’s Tritons stunned eighth-ranked Iowa Lakes, 63-61 in overtime.

Before the contest, Iowa Central president Dan Kinney talked about Pilcher’s accomplishments and handed him a plaque as two spots on the court first displayed his name.

Pilcher thanked his family, assistants and former players, and the quick-witted Kentucky native said the officials could now stomp on his name whenever they wanted to.

“To be honored and selected by your peers and to get a big win against a good basketball team is great,” said Pilcher, who was coaching in his 1,249th career game. “We’re not going to do anything pretty, but we were resilient.”

With the Tritons (17-12 overall, 7-6 ICCAC) ahead 62-61 in overtime, Casey Sieren split a pair of free throws. Iowa Lakes (21-6, 10-3) had the ball and turned it over to the Tritons with about 47 seconds remaining.

Iowa Central burned time off the clock and put a shot up with about 11 seconds left, and the ball went out of bounds.

The officials discussed putting one second back on the shot clock, but went back to the original call, allowing the Tritons to eat more time. Rhys Elliot missed a pair of foul shots, but the Lakers couldn’t connect on a desperation attempt at a victory.

“We overcame some mistakes – especially our free throw shooting (13-for-26),” Pilcher said. “We played resilient basketball and came up with some big defensive stops.”

The contest was sent into overtime after Kelly Madison hit a jumper with 25 seconds left to tie the game at 57-57.

Iowa Central milked the clock, and point guard Jesse Jones drove the lane but missed. The ball was tipped out to Jaleel Gray, who put up a shot as time expired and was fouled.

After a timeout, Gray missed the first free throw and then missed the second to force overtime.

“I told him if he makes it he won’t be a hero and if he misses it he won’t be a goat,” Pilcher said. “Jaleel did have a big play to keep a possession alive late in the game with a tipout. It all balances out.”

The Tritons put together a solid second half and stymied the Laker offense, holding them to 14 points under their average. Iowa Central went on 12-2 and 10-0 runs to keep the contest tight.

At halftime, the Tritons put together a gameplan to get David Andersen the ball down low. It worked, as the sophomore had 10 of his 16 points after the break. Anderson finished with a double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds as well.

A big scoring burst came from Adekoya. The 6-3 guard had a game-high 21 points, including 11 in the second half and overtime. He was 7 of 11 from the field and hit four triples.

Gray also turned in a double-digit performance with 14 points.

Ben Shellim led the Lakers with 20 points. Madison, who came in averaging 20, scored only 14.

Even with the big victory for his team, the day was about Pilcher’s legacy.

“I don’t do this by myself: it’s my family, the assistant coaches, the players and our school,” Pilcher said. “I started coaching when I was 21 years old, and you don’t think about it ever getting to this point. When you first start out, it’s fun to win. Now, it’s a relief to win.

“It was great to have all my family and former players here on this day. I dearly appreciate it.”

The Tritons are back in action at Southwestern next Saturday.