Triton women sidelined
Chelsey Jacox put the top-ranked (NJCAA, Div. II) North Iowa Area women on her back and carried them to a berth in the national tournament here Saturday.
Jacox scored 41 points as the Trojans claimed the Region XI title with a 96-92 victory over No. 9 Iowa Central inside Hodges Fieldhouse.
After rallying back late Friday night in the semifinals against 11th-ranked Kirkwood, the Tritons (26-6 overall) were denied a repeat bid to nationals.
“We just didn’t have enough in the tank late,” ICCC head coach Craig Carlson said. “I couldn’t be prouder of these girls because they did everything we asked of them. We just didn’t have the horses to keep up with NIACC.
“This was a gutsy effort, especially after playing late into the night (Friday) and having to bounce back against the No. 1 team in the country with a player like Jacox.”
Jacox, who will attend the University of San Francisco in the fall, scored a combined 121 points over the course of the last week – with all three games coming at Iowa Central.
“Not only is Jacox one of the best players in junior college basketball, I think she is one of the best players in the whole country regardless of division,” Carlson said.
NIACC (31-2) will be making a return to nationals for the first time in 20 years. After going undefeated in the ICCAC, the Trojans are likely to secure the top seed overall when play begins March 18 in Overland Park, Kan.
“I think they have a great shot at winning a national title,” Carlson said. “This is one of the best conferences in the country and they came out of it.
“I just feel for our girls because we are one of the better teams out there, but to make it (to nationals) you have to win your regional tournament. We came up just short this year.”
Lydia Harvey and Katie Dentlinger, who each were named to the all-tournament team, scored 27 and 24 points, respectively. Harvey grabbed six rebounds and Dentlinger 11.
Miliakere Koyamainavure, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds in the game and finished the tourney with 72 points, was left off the honor team.
NIACC jumped out early, claiming a 14-5 lead before the Tritons rallied back. Each time Iowa Central cut it to a single possession, Jacox answered. She finished with 22 in the first half of play.
“We had to use so much energy on defense trying to keep up with Jacox that hit made us commit too many mistakes on the other end,” Carlson said. “We had our chances, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Tritons never went away, though, fighting back from a 10-point hole in the second half even with several key players on the bench with foul trouble.
With four minutes to go, Dentlinger hit one of her four three-pointers, making it a 77-76 game. Jacox proceeded to score eight of the next 11 points for her team.
NIACC held convincing edges in free throws, going 26 of 39 compared to 13-for-22 by the Tritons. They also forced 12 more turnovers.
NIACC’s Cortni Rush added 12 points, while both Lateeka Thompson and Sierra Ford-Washington tallied 11.
This was the final game for Iowa Central sophomores Harvey, a High Point University-signee, Dentlinger, Koyamainavure, Chayil Henderson, Babaye Oja, Theresa Doyle, Noelly Scott and Jasmine Binion. The group were part of 51 wins and a national tournament berth.
Dentlinger concluded her career with 908 points, placing her eighth on the all-time scoring charts. Koyamainavure finished tied for 10th with 893 and Harvey 15th with 834.
Iowa Central set new school records in number of three-pointers made with 294, total points scored with 2,794 and in points per game at 87.
“I’ll remember these girls for their toughness,” Carlson said. “And the heart that they always showed out on the court. They were a great group to coach and will be missed.”