As has been the case for much of the season, nothing came easy for the Iowa Central men Wednesday night.
But, in the end, the Tritons had earned their eighth victory this year inside Hodges Fieldhouse, defeating Ellsworth 66-64.
A defensive stand by center Chris Tawiah preserved the win, as the 6-foot-9 freshman swatted away a Malcolm Canada block with 12 seconds left.
Iowa Central (15-9 overall, 5-4 in ICCAC) forced a pair of wild three-pointers by the Panthers (14-8, 6-2) as time expired.
Jesse Jones scored a team-high 19 points, while Tawiah added nine and seven rebounds. Rhys Elliot contributed 13, including 11 in the second half.
"Give a lot of credit to both Chris and Dean (Wanliss) because they were forced to play a lot of minutes without David (Andersen) in the lineup," ICCC head coach Dennis Pilcher said. "As freshmen, we know they are going to make some mistakes, but they never hung their heads and they came up with big plays when we needed them to."
IOWA CENTRAL 66, ELLSWORTH 64
Iowa Central - Jawad Adekoya 0 4-5 4, Jesse Jones 7 5-8 19, Rhys Elliot 5 0-3 13, Jaleel Gray 1 0-0 3, Casey Sieren 1 1-2 3, Chris Tawiah 4 1-2 9, Puot Kudhot 2 2-2 8, Dean Wanliss 3 1-4 7. Totals: 23 14-26 66.
Ellsworth - Malcolm Canada 5 7-8 20, Antone Moore 1 0-0 3, Jared Fulks 2 0-0 5, Darvell Brown 4 0-0 8, Derrell Lamb 4 7-8 15, Tonnie Collier 1 0-0 2, David Dep 1 0-0 2, Abrie Anderson 4 0-0 9. Totals: 22 14-16 64.
Halftime score: Ellsworth led 31-30. Three-point goals: Iowa Central 6 (Elliot 3, Gray 1, Kudhot 2); Ellsworth 4 (Canada 1, Moore 1, Fulks 1, Anderson 1).
The second half was a back-and-forth affair, as Ellsworth relied on Canada and Derrell Lamb. Canada tallied a game-high 20, while Lamb scored 15.
Darvell Brown, who posted eight points in the opening half, was held scoreless over the final 20 minutes.
"Ellsworth took the ball to the paint a little more than the first meeting, and I am sure that had to do with our inexperience inside," Pilcher said. "We gave up some easy baskets, and they put together a couple of nice runs, but we made the key defensive stops when we needed them the most."
Jones and Puot Kudhot accounted for 16 in the first half to lead the Tritons. Casey Sieren grabbed nine rebounds, and Elliot pulled in six.
"Puot gave us some great minutes there in the first, and Casey just has such a nose for the loose ball," Pilcher said. "Slowly we are starting to put it all together.
"Of course, if we come out this weekend (Iowa Central travels to NIACC) and don't protect this win, than it really means nothing. We have to string together victories now."
The Tritons, who have won six of their last nine, will look to push their win streak to four when they visit Mason City Saturday. Tip is set for 3 p.m.