DMACC outlasts Iowa Central men

The Iowa Central men’s basketball team has played with a thin margin of error in every game this year.

Now the Tritons’ season doesn’t have much margin for error left.

Despite hanging with No. 7 Des Moines Area for all 40 minutes last night at Hodges Fieldhouse, the Tritons dropped an 85-80 decision that all but pushes them into a must-win game in the regular-season finale Saturday against North Iowa if the Tritons want one of the coveted top-four seeds in the regional tournament and the home game that comes with it.

“I thought we had a shot at them,” said Iowa Central coach Dennis Pilcher, whose team slipped to 7-6 in the conference and 18-12 overall. “We battled them. I appreciate the effort our kids gave. Our margin of error is just so small for us. Every possession is just so important.

“Saturday is big. We’re 7-6 right now and we need to get to 8-6 and hopefully get into that fourth spot (in the standings). We have to have a good couple days of practice and get ready to go. We have to play through this.”

Iowa Central still had an outside shot at the top seed in the league, but the Bears moved closer to securing that position with a 10-3 mark. DMACC is 24-5 overall. The rest of the league is still in flux. Kirkwood and Iowa Lakes were 8-4 going into Wednesday while Ellsworth and North Iowa were both 7-5.

Iowa Lakes played Clinton (1-11 in the league) while Kirkwood took on Southwestern (also 1-11). North Iowa and Ellsworth squared off in another important league contest.

Iowa Central’s five-guard offense set a fast pace in the game, but the Bears were too much to handle inside. Despite constant double-team defense, 6-7 Brandon Nazione scored 23 points, including 18 in the second half. LaTrell Viser added 16, Jon Faqua 14 and Derek Williams 13.

Dylan Travis led Iowa Central with 27 points. Jesse Jones added 19 and Javonte Young 13.

“I give DMACC credit. They knew were fronting them inside and they did a good job of looking for the open man,” said Pilcher. “When a shot went up, they did a good job getting that open man to the boards. We didn’t do a good job on the boards. We didn’t do a good job with our block-out assignments.”

The game’s pace led to several bursts by each team in the first half, but neither team led by more than six. DMACC went up 13-7 with 14:55 left in the half and Iowa Central led 35-29 with 4:05 left in the half and 39-33 at the break.

The Tritons missed their first three shots of the second half and the Bears countered with three straight buckets to tie the game at 39-all with just 90 seconds gone off the second-half clock.

Iowa Central got it back to a six-point lead at 48-42, using a 6-0 run, but the Bears snuck back to 49-48 with 15:05 to play.

The Tritons’ lead was 57-52 with 12:05 left on a bucket by Malik Brooks, but DMACC went ahead 58-57 with 10:43 to play.

Brooks hit a free throw to tie it at 58-all, but Tritons could never get the lead back.

A key stretch came with 4:03 to play when Iowa Central was called for an offense foul and the Bears used that spark to turn a 71-70 margin into a 76-70 lead. DMACC also got a huge bucket from Viser just before the shot clock expired for an 83-77 lead with just 18 second to play.

Saturday’s game with North Iowa tips at 3 p.m.