EAST PEORIA, Ill. – The name of the game was survive and advance, and that’s exactly what the Iowa Central women did Thursday.
The Tritons jumped out to a 40-14 lead after the first 20 minutes, defeating North Platte at the NJCAA Div. II National Tournament, 93-54.
Iowa Central (25-9 overall) will face Lake Michigan (26-7) today at 1 p.m. The winner will play for seventh-place on Saturday, while the loser is eliminated.
Babaye Oja led all scorers with 22 points, connecting on 8 of 15 field goals. She also had three rebounds and two steals.
Katie Dentlinger posted 11 points and four boards, while Theresa Doyle and Aubriegh Yetmar each scored nine.
Yetmar contributed her nine points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the field, including a three-pointer.
After suffering a tough 87-84 defeat in the first round to Monroe, the Tritons showed head coach Craig Carlson they were determined to remain alive in the tournament.
“You never know how a team is going to respond after a difficult loss like the one we suffered,” Carlson said. “But these girls are hungry, and they want to prove something.”
Right from the start, the Tritons were never threatened, as they caused problems with their speed and quickness, forcing the Lady Knights (15-17) into 28 turnovers. Iowa Central scored 28 points off those miscues, and outscored the North Platte bench 38-15.
“I know that we scored 40 points in the first half, but we really didn’t shoot the ball that great for the first six-to-seven minutes,” Carlson said. “Our defense, though, was just great. Oja caused problems with her speed; it seemed like she had another gear to her.”
North Platte was led by Candice Shelton’s 13. Courtney Widick added 12.
No. 11 Lake Michigan, the fifth seed in the tourney, was upset by No. 12 seed South Suburban in the opening round. They rebounded to defeat 13th-seeded Elgin, 58-56, yesterday.
Breana Rivoli-Johnson is the leading scorer on the year, averaging nearly 24 a night. She had 15 in their most recent game, while Gloria Jeter scored 18.
“They average just about 80 points per game and are athletic down low,” Carlson said. “Johnson is a very athletic guard, and they have a couple big girls inside.
“We watched the first half of their game (vs. Elgin), but it looks like they had some trouble finishing the game off.”
Carlson added that Lydia Harvey suffered a wrist injury Thursday and her status for today is unknown.