Bizarre. That’s the only way to describe Saturday’s regular-season finale for third-ranked Indian Hills.
Tumultuous. That’s the best way to describe the past seven days for the Warriors basketball program.
Empty. The statement sent out by the National Junior College Athletic Association left anyone close to Indian Hills feeling exactly that on Saturday.
Worried. That’s what the fans, players, coaches and administration will be until a final ruling is expected on Monday.
It’s almost secondary to mention that Marshalltown ended a nearly two-year reign of dominance for second-year Warrior head coach Barret Peery against Region XI opposition and against any opponent entering the Hellyer Student Life Center. The Tigers pulled out an 88-78 victory on Saturday night, handing Peery his first home loss and regional loss as IHCC head hoops coach.
Peery, however, wasn’t around to watch most of it. After serving a one-game suspension for his team’s role in last weekend’s postgame brawl at Southeastern, Peery had to leave after suffering lasting effects from a concussion that came from being hit while trying to separate his players from the brawl at Loren Walker Arena last Saturday.
“Coach actually had to be taken to the emergency room,” IHCC sophomore Jameel McKay said. “He couldn’t really stand up. I know if coach was physically able to, he would have stayed out there with us.”
“He’s been battling it all week long. For most of the game, the guys did a great job listening to everything we told them,” Warrior assistant coach John Wardenburg said after taking over for Peery late in the first half.
Perry’s concussion might not be the most damaging impact of last Saturday’s brawl for the Warrior program. Already hit with multi-game suspensions by the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference earlier in the week, the National Junior College Athletic Association released its own statement earlier in the day Saturday adding an even stiffer penalty.
In fact, it’s the stiffest penalty a team can receive at this time of the season.
“The NJCAA has ruled on a violation or its organization bylaws by Indian Hills Community College,” the NJCAA said in its memo. “As a result, the NJCAA has placed the men’s basketball team on probation, which also results in a postseason ban for this year.”
That ruling, if held up, would mean Saturday’s loss would bring a season filled with championship hopes to a stunning end. Indian Hills has exercised the right of appealing the decision per the NJCAA bylaws. The appeal, according to IHCC administrative officials, is in its final stages with a final ruling expected today.
If the ruling by the NJCAA is overturned, Northeast and Southeastern would open regional tournament play with a play-in game in West Burlington Tuesday. Regional semifinals between Marshalltown and No. 5 Iowa Western and No. 3 IHCC hosting the Northeast-Southeastern winner would be played Thursday.
For their part, Warrior players and coaches were preparing to continue their quest toward a return trip to Hutchinson, Kan. this week when IHCC is supposed to host a regional semifinal contest against either Northeast or Southeastern on Wednesday. The Warriors are also supposed to have sophomores Richard Amardi, Dustin Hogue, Ronnie Stevens and Rawane Ndiaye available for that game.
“We’re going to get all our guys back and put this week behind us,” McKay said. “It made it a lot harder on us in these last two games, but we always battle back.”
“We need to get ourselves mentally and physically ready for the postseason,” Wardenburg added.
As for Saturday’s game, IHCC again had to face life without five of their players against a Tigers’ squad that nearly knocked off the Warriors earlier this season. Marshalltown again led most of the night against Indian Hills, jumping out to an early 8-2 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Matej Delinac.
“Whether they’ve got six, eight or 13 players out there, they are still Indian Hills,” Marshalltown head coach Brynjar Brynjarsson said. “We had to come out ready to take the fight to them. They were going to play us hard and we had to handle that as well as another great road atmosphere to deal with.”
Indian Hills fought back to take their first lead on an early 3-pointer by Martin Dixon-Green, giving the Warriors a 13-12 lead. After exchanging four lead changes, however, Marshalltown began to pull away again from the shorthanded Warriors and opened an 11-point lead late in the first half.
McKay, in his final regular season game, came alive with what has become an almost routine double-double performance for the future Marquette Golden Eagle. McKay scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first 19 minutes of the game as IHCC pulled to within 40-34 by halftime.
The Warriors kept fighting back, forcing three ties early in the second half before Chris Caird came alive with 15 of his game-best 22 points after the half. Marshalltown again stretched the lead out on IHCC with a 17-5 run that put the Tigers up by 12 late in the contest.
“We just missed some shots that we normally make,” Wardenburg said. “That’s probably a testament to not having all of our guys out there for us.”
Sophomore transfer Jelan Kendrick tried to rally the Warriors, scoring all 12 of his points in the second half with 10 coming in the final six minutes including a bucket that brought IHCC back within 79-75 with a minute left. Cameron Robinson answered back with a game-clinching hoop with 44 seconds to go and added three free throws to help the Tigers (22-8, 3-5) clinch just their second-ever win in Ottumwa.
“The guys did a great job keeping their composure when the pressure was on,” Brynjarsson said. “I love our guys. They come in and work hard every day for us. We’ve had our struggle in regional play, but they’ve hung in there all year with me.”
No. 3 IHCC finishes the regular season with a 26-4 record while going 7-1 to defend their regional regular-season title. The Warriors now wait, and hope, that they can defend their postseason regional championship.
“I’m just glad this week is over with,” McKay said. “We get all our guys back this week and we can get back to winning.”
Marshalltown 88, No. 3 (DI) Indian Hills 78
Marshalltown (88) – Chris Caird 22, Jamal Gratali 18, Troidell Carter 12, Matej Delinac 12, Lamont Adair 8, Raheem Holloway 8, Cameron Robinson 8. Totals 31-64 19-25 88.
3-point goals – 7-21 (Gratali 3-4, Caird 3-9, Delinac 1-4, Coleman 0-1, Holloway 0-1, Robinson 0-2). Rebounds – 42 (Gratali 10, Carter 7, Robinson 7, Caird 5, Adair 4, Coleman 3, Delinac 3, Holloway 3). Assists – 23 (Robinson 8, Holloway 7, Gratali 3, Caird 2, Delinac 2, Carter). Steals – 6 (Holloway 3, Robinson 2, Caird). Blocks – 2 (Carter, Robinson). Total fouls – 17. Turnovers – 16.
IHCC (78) – Jameel McKay 21, Frank Williams 17, Jelan Kendrick 12, Trinson White 11, Gary Williams, Jr. 8, Martin Dixon-Green 5, Majok Deng 4. Totals 30-74 11-16 78.
3-point goals – 7-26 (White 3-6, Williams 3-6, Dixon-Green 1-4, McKay 0-1, Deng 0-2, Gary Ross 0-2, Williams, Jr. 0-2, Kendrick 0-3). Rebounds – 43 (McKay 16, Kendrick 7, Deng 6, Williams 5, White 4, Dixon-Green 3, Williams, Jr. 2). Assists – 24 (Williams, Jr. 8, Williams 4, Deng 3, Kendrick 3, White 3, McKay 2, Dixon-Green). Steals – 5 (Williams 3, Kendrick, McKay). Blocks – 9 (McKay 4, Kendrick 3, Deng, White). Total fouls – 20 (Technicals – Indian Hills bench). Turnovers – 16.
Halftime Score: Marshalltown 40, Indian Hills 34