The Iowa Central men earned just the kind of victory head coach Dennis Pilcher was hoping for Wednesday night.
Behind a lightning-quick start, the Tritons defeated No. 11 (NJCAA, Div. II) Des Moines Area inside Hodges Fieldhouse, 75-61, to secure the No. 3 seed in next week's Region XI tournament.
Iowa Central (22-9 overall, 9-5 in ICCAC) will host an opening round game against North Iowa Area (14-15, 5-8).
It was a fitting regular season finale for the Tritons, as they opened up an early 25-5 lead on the Bears (22-7, 8-5) and never looked back. Marc Musungayi led the way with 14 points, while Robert Goffney and Rhys Elliot each added 13. Duke Reed chipped in another 12 as Iowa Central honored its sophomores prior to the start.
"These sophomores have been part of 45 wins so far over their two years here, and I thought this was a perfect way to send them out," Pilcher said. "Of course, now we are in the sudden-death part of the season, but I feel we have momentum behind us to carry us - hopefully - through these next three games and to the national tournament."
After falling by two to DMACC earlier this year, Elliot made sure the sophomore class would not be swept by the Bears, scoring all 13 of his points in the opening half. Iowa Central used a 23-3 run to fuel its lead, finishing the half with back-to-back buckets courtesy Elliot and Javonte Young.
IOWA CENTRAL 75, DES MOINES AREA 61
Iowa Central - Javonte Young 3-5 0-0 8, Rhys Elliot 5-13 2-2 13, Duke Reed 6-11 0-1 12, Robert Goffney 5-14 3-3 13, Marc Musungayi 6-10 2-2 14, Zack Garth 2-4 0-0 6, Tommy Johnson 0-1 1-2 1, David Anderson 0-1 0-0 0, Leon Alexander 2-6 0-0 4, Riley Stuve 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 31-68 8-10 75.
Des Moines Area - LaTrell Viser 4-16 0-2 8, Kurtis Phillips 7-13 2-3 18, Nate Mason 3-12 1-3 7, Rico Saldana 4-8 0-0 8, LaTree Russell 2-6 3-4 7, Michael Aldeman 0-5 0-2 0, Cole Martin 3-11 0-0 7, DeVonte Smith 2-4 0-0 6, Roberto Asencio 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-75 6-14 61.
Halftime score: Iowa Central led 44-23. Three-point goals: Iowa Central 5-16 (Young 2-2, Elliot 1-6, Goffney 0-5, Garth 2-3); DMACC 5-21 (Viser 0-4, Phillips 2-4, Mason 0-3, Aldeman 0-3, Martin 1-4, Smith 2-3). Total rebounds: Iowa Central 47, DMACC 44. Steals: Iowa Central 10, DMACC 6. Blocked shots: Iowa Central 1, DMACC 5. Turnovers: Iowa Central 16, DMACC 14. Points off turnovers: Iowa Central 13, DMACC 7. Team fouls: Iowa Central 18, DMACC 13.
"I thought that was one of the best opening 10 minutes of a game I have had a team play in quite a few years," Pilcher said. "We don't have the most size, or the best athletes, but when we play as a team, we are pretty good. Our ability to get after them early really took (DMACC) out of their game."
DMACC would get no closer than 15 during the second half, as Musungayi and Goffney scored 17 of their 27 points over the final 20 minutes.
Reed added 11 rebounds and four steals to his 12 points, while Elliot had seven boards and four steals. Musungayi also had seven rebounds and a blocked shot.
For the Bears, Kurtis Phillips posted a game-high 18 and grabbed seven rebounds. DMACC had been allowing just 24 points in the first half, but the Tritons scored 44 in the opening 20 minutes behind 19 made field goals.
Iowa Central improved to 11-2 at home this year, and has now won three of its last four games following a three-game losing streak. The Tritons swept NIACC during the regular season.
Contact Dana Becker at (515) 573-2141, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org