The ninth-ranked (NJCAA, Div. II) Iowa Central women will play host to the semifinal and final rounds in the Region XI tournament inside Hodges Fieldhouse beginning tonight.
Tip in the first semi is set for 6 p.m. between No. 1 North Iowa Area and Des Moines Area, while the Tritons meet 11th-ranked Kirkwood at 8 p.m.
Winners of these two games hit the court on Saturday at 3 p.m. for a berth in the national tournament.
As hosts, Iowa Central (25-5 overall) is given the luxury of keeping almost everything routine prior to game time, a positive as far as head coach Craig Carlson is concerned.
"Other than not getting as much time as we want before tip to prepare, we are embracing this opportunity to compete for a national berth at home," Carlson said. "We told the girls to get themselves ready well before the 20-minute warm up period we will get after the first game.
"And while we would like to be in that first game time slot if we win to rest, not having to go back to a hotel after the game and getting to sleep in our own beds is going to be a real benefit."
The Tritons have split their two regular season games with the Eagles (25-6), winning 80-74 on their home floor last month. Kirkwood won in Cedar Rapids, 85-78, in December.
"We played a great second half at our place, scoring 50 points," Carlson said. "We can't come out sluggish this time. We know they are going to full-court press and use a 2-2-1 zone, so we are going to have to handle that pressure.
"They play 10 and we are going to have to go eight-or-nine deep to match that."
Iowa Central is 8-2 in its last 10 games overall, relying on sophomores Lydia Harvey, Miliakere Koyamainavure, Katie Dentlinger and Babaye Oja. Harvey has signed to attend High Point University next season, while the other three are planning to continue their playing careers at the next level.
Harvey, who is third on the school's all-time made three-pointers list with 125 behind fellow St. Edmond graduate Danni Huss, leads the team at just under 17 points per game.
Koyamainavure is averaging 16.5, Dentlinger 15 and Oja 10. Carlson is banking on more than the three points he received from Oja earlier this week in a tournament win over Southeastern.
Kirkwood has won seven straight since a string of three consecutive defeats to start February. That includes a 63-32 victory over Iowa Lakes in the Region XI quarterfinals.
Danielle Woolfork leads the Eagles at 14 points a night, while Ariel Sneed is averaging 10.
Former St. Edmond standout Theresa Doyle has been cleared to dress for the game, according to Carlson. She has missed the last three weeks with a knee injury, and the coach said her minutes will be a "game-time decision."
In the other semifinal, NIACC (29-2) puts its 13-game win streak on the line. The Trojans have scored at least 90 points in all but two of those games, surpassing the 100-point mark twice.
Chelsey Jacox, who has signed with the University of San Francisco, leads four players in double figures at 21.7 per night. Cortni Rush, Lateeka Thompson and Morgan Walker are all averaging at least 10.
For DMACC (19-12), returning player of the year Carlee Schuhmacher paces the Bears with 23.6 points per and 13.4 rebounds. She is headed to North Carolina State University in the fall.
Game notes: Harvey went over 500 points on the year earlier this week, as she has scored 505, making her the 13th player to do it in school history. ... Koyamainavure, who has 843 points in her career, is just five away from joining Harvey. ... The Tritons are 15-1 on their home floor this season. ... Kirkwood sports a 5-4 record away from home. ... The Eagles lead the ICCAC in field goal percentage at just under 42 and three-point percentage at 32.5.