Difficult tests await both the Iowa Central men's and women's basketball teams tonight.
Looking to extend their respective seasons, the Tritons will compete in the NJCAA Div. II Region XI Tournament semifinals.
The fifth-seeded Iowa Central men (19-13 overall) will battle No. 1 seed and 11th-ranked Iowa Lakes (24-6).
Tip for the men's game is set for 7 p.m. in Estherville.
"We know we have our hands full against a good Iowa Lakes basketball team, but I expect our guys to play with a lot of confidence," ICCC head coach Dennis Pilcher said. "We need to be able to execute both on the offensive and defensive ends to give ourselves a chance."
In the tournament quarterfinals Wednesday night, the Tritons narrowly escaped with a 61-60 overtime road victory over fourth-seeded Southwestern. Jesse Jones delivered 14 points for Iowa Central, while Rhys Elliot tallied 13 and Jawad Adekoya added 12.
"We obviously had our backs against the wall (Wednesday), but we were able to come back from seven points down late in the game," said Pilcher. "We had a good practice (Thursday), and our players really feel like they can go up (to Estherville) and play well."
Elliot (15.3 points per game), Jones (11.4) and David Andersen (10.8) spearhead the balanced offensive charge for the defending Region XI Tournament champion Tritons, who split their two regular-season meetings with the Lakers.
Catalysts for Iowa Lakes are Deondre Parks (14.9), Kelly Madison (14.1) and Ben Shellim (13.9). The Lakers, who won the regular season league title with an 11-3 mark, advanced with a convincing 71-56 triumph over Clinton. Iowa Lakes has prevailed in seven of its past eight outings, including three straight.
On the women's side, No. 3 seed Iowa Central (22-8) faces second-seeded and No. 15 Des Moines Area (24-7).
Start time for the women's tilt is slated for 8 p.m. in Keokuk.
Pushing its win streak to four consecutive games, Iowa Central easily ousted No. 6 seed Marshalltown, 80-49, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at Hodges Fieldhouse.
Katie Dentlinger contributed 19 points for the Tritons, while Theresa Doyle (St. Edmond) and Miliakere Koyamainavure each netted 12.
"The last four or five games has probably been the best basketball we've played this year," ICCC head coach Craig Carlson said. "We're finally starting to shoot well from the outside, which is a great equalizer."
Dentlinger (12.1), Koyamainavure (9.9) and Babaye Oja (9.4) are the main weapons in Iowa Central's lineup.
For the Bears, Carlee Schuhmacher leads the conference in both scoring (16.4) and rebounding (11.5). Jalissa Felici (8.9) and Taryn Wicks (7.5) are the other top offensive threats. DMACC, which is under the direction of former Iowa player and Iowa State men's assistant Steve Krafcisin, swept the Tritons in their two earlier encounters. The Bears, who have won eight of their last nine games, are fresh off a 72-59 victory over seventh-seeded Iowa Lakes.
"DMACC is big and real physical inside, which is a real tough matchup for us, " said Carlson. "Schuhmacher was the Player of the Year in our league, and it all starts with her.
"If we keep playing like we have been, though, I feel like we're able to compete with anybody. We can put up some points in a hurry, and our freshmen are not freshmen anymore after already playing 30 games this season."