EAST PEORIA, Ill. - The Iowa Central women's basketball team closed its season with an 82-75 loss to Lake Michigan College in a consolation semifinal contest here Friday at the NJCAA Div. II national tournament.
A slow start wound up being too much for the eighth-seeded Tritons (25-10 overall) to fully overcome against the No. 5 seed Red Hawks (27-7). Head coach Craig Carlson's squad trailed by 12 points right out of the gate, and although they eventually erased the deficit and jumped ahead early in the second half, Lake Michigan had one final charge and pulled away before eventually settling for eighth place in the event.
''I thought our kids showed a tremenous amount of resilience to fight back against another awful good, bigger opponent,'' Carlson said. ''We got down 15-3 and were kind of playing catch up the rest of the way; even when we went ahead, it took a lot of energy just to get back in it and to that point.
''We lost two games here to outstanding competition by a combined 10 points. Our players should be proud of their performance (at nationals).''
St. Edmond graduate Lydia Harvey fought through a rib injury to lead the Tritons with 14 points. Katie Dentlinger and Miliakere Koyamainavure both added 12.
Rebecca Easton had eight points and seven rebounds off the bench in a ''very strong overall performance,'' according to Carlson.
LAKE MICHIGAN 82, IOWA CENTRAL 75
Lake Michigan - Breana Rivoli-Johnson 35, JaBria Hill 17, Gloria Jeter 8, De Yahanna Styles 8, Courtney Peter 7, LeAnne Priebe 7.
Iowa Central - Lydia Harvey 14, Miliakere Koyamainavure 12, Katie Dentlinger 12, Jasmon Binion 11, Rebecca Easton 8, Babayae Oja 8, Jade Gregory 5, Lauren Bengen 3, Theresa Doyle 2.
Halftime score: Lake Michigan led 41-36.
Iowa Central was out-rebounded 59-42, and Red Hawk All-American Breana Rivoli-Johnson - who averages 24 points per game - finished with 35.
''She was just too much for us to handle,'' Carlson said. ''She's a terrific player. I thought our depth might eventually wear them down, but the (early deficit) caught up to us instead.
"The rebounding was a significant issue again as well. We were battling against some of the best teams in the country, and when you do that, your weaknesses tend to really show up. We got hammered on the boards and at the free throw line (the Tritons were 10 of 11, while Lake Michigan went 22 of 30).''
Carlson called this season ''one of the most gratifying I've had as a coach.''
''I'm not sure anyone outside of our own camp thought getting here was a reality,'' Carlson said. ''It was an amazing accomplishment and a confidence boost for the kids we'll have coming back, which represent about 80 percent of our scoring.
''With that being said, I want to credit and thank the five sophomores. They gave us everything they had for two years and were really the backbone of the program. I also want to recognize our first-year assistant, (Jordon) O'Brien, the fans and administration. It's been a very special year.''
Annie Lindburg, Carly McRae, Allison Seibert, Lauren Bengen and Easton were the five Triton sophomores.