Triton women move on

Iowa Central head coach Craig Carlson isn’t looking for style points at this stage in the season.

Carlson’s ninth-ranked (NJCAA, Div. II) Triton women opened their quest for a berth in the national tournament by defeating Southeastern, 89-66, in a Region XI quarterfinal inside Hodges Fieldhouse on Tuesday.

Iowa Central (25-5 overall) will now host No. 11 Kirkwood (25-6) – a 63-32 winner over Iowa Lakes – on Friday night at 8 p.m. In the other semifinal, top-rated North Iowa Area (28-2) squares off with Des Moines Area (19-12) at 6 p.m. That contest is also slated for Hodges Fieldhouse.

“We aren’t playing for anything other than to win and advance,” said Carlson, who is now 226-70 in nine years at the helm and has coached the Tritons to seven straight seasons of at least 25 wins. “It’s a seven-game season, and we just checked off the first.”

St. Edmond graduate Lydia Harvey led all scorers with 23 points, also dishing out seven assists and grabbing nine rebounds. Miliakere Koyamainavure added 22 points, 11 boards and four assists, while Katie Dentlinger posted 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Harvey, Koyamainavure, Dentlinger and Babaye Oja are all returning starters from a 25-10 squad that advanced to nationals a year ago. Theresa Doyle, another former Gael who injured her knee during the regular season, could return to practice as soon as Thursday.

“There is no doubt we are a better team this year than last,” Carlson said. “You cannot underestimate how important having that year of experience is at this level.

“These girls know what they need to do out on the floor and they are all capable of leading us on any given night.”

Despite posting two wins earlier in the season over the Blackhawks (8-22), Carlson knew it would be a grinder on Tuesday.

Iowa Central raced out to an early 29-16 lead behind a 12-2 run, pushing its advantage to as many as 18 in the opening half. Koyamainavure had 14 and Harvey 13, as the Tritons knocked down seven three-pointers.

Southeastern, though, didn’t go away, slowly cutting into the lead in the second. The Blackhawks would get it down to nine before Harvey scored four straight and Oja knocked down her only points of the game on a triple.

“Credit Southeastern because they had us very well scouted,” Carlson said. “I thought we had them scouted pretty well, too, but we still let their guards do too much against us.

“We knew they could hurt us, and we failed to step up on defense and get stops when we could have put the game away earlier than we did.”

De’Janique Nicholas had 20 points, while Kelsi Conner added 13 and Fiatagata Tailele-Latu 12. The Blackhawks shot just 34 percent from the field, though, and turned the ball over 16 times.

Iowa Central has moved into second place on the school’s all-time single-season team scoring charts with 2,608 points, behind only the 2010-11 squad that scored 2,738. They have also made 273 three-pointers, which is the second most in school history.

Harvey surpassed the 500-point mark on the year and has scored 791 in two seasons. Fellow sophomores Dentlinger has accounted for 873 points and Koyamainavure 843.

The championship game takes place Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.