By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Indian Hills basketball fans have proven they'll travel anywhere in droves to watch the Warriors this season. It's possible the next time they have travel, however, won't be until the NJCAA Divsion I National Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
Indian Hills learned on Wednesday that the team will receive forfeit wins for the final two scheduled road games of the regular season after the opponents, Iowa Western and Moberly Area, suspended their players two games each for following a bench-clearing altercation in the final seconds of Tuesday's game involving the two squads
According to the Daily Nonpareil, no punches appeared to be thrown in the altercation, which came with 11.6 seconds and Iowa Western leading 95-92. However, leaving the bench area and the on-court shoving that occurred at Kanesville Arena were violations of NJCAA sportsmanship policy.
The Reivers (23-5) were to face the Warriors at home on Saturday before heading to Southeastern next weekend. At 4-2 in league play, they were a game behind both IHCC and Southeastern leaving the opportunity to at least share the regional title in their control.
Iowa Western will finish third in the region and are locked into the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Region XI tournament. The Reivers won't play again until the semifinal round of the tourney, at the No. 2 seed, on Feb. 26. IHCC and Southeastern both have one regional game remaining with both essentially having 6-1 regional records. Southeastern plays at Northeast (Neb.) on Saturday while Indian Hills will host Marshalltown the following weekend.
The suspensions were handed down by the NJCAA and the ICCAC. Moberly Area will also have to forfeit its Region XVI game on Saturday with State Fair and the following Tuesday night home game with IHCC. The NJCAA did not grant Indian Hills an additional game to make up for the two forfeits, which would have been on Saturday at home with State Fair, according to school officials.
Reivers coach Jim Morris said he hasn't had a team involved in suspensions of this magnitude in his 37 years of coaching, which include 22 years as a collegiate head coach. He was not surprised, nor did he disagree with the punishment levied on Wednesday.
"The players have to learn, and I thought the consequences were probably appropriate," Morris told the Daily Nonpareil said. "Our players knew that you're not supposed to be going on the floor, and that there would be punishment for it. They chose to do it the other way."
According to reports, the incident appeared to begin when a player from each team bumped chests following a foul with 11.6 seconds left. Officials halted the game at that point, giving Iowa Western a 95-92 victory rather than playing out the remaining regulation time.
For top-ranked Indian Hills, the two forfeits will leave the Warriors at 27-2 with just next Saturday night's home game with Marshalltown left to play out in the regular season. A win could lock IHCC into the top seed in the Region XI Tournament, which would give the Warriors home court advantage all through regional and district tournament play. If that is the case, the next game the Warriors would play away from the Hellyer Center would be in the Hutchinson Sports Arena as a part of the 2014 NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Tournament.
For now, Indian Hills head coach Barret Peery is focused on trying as best as possible to keep his team in game condition with an unexpected 12-day layoff late in the season. IHCC will follow up the Marshalltown game by opening Region XI Tournament play at home on Feb. 26.
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