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Helle earns first victory

—Photo by Paul DeCoursey Iowa Central head coach Chad Helle talks to his team in their season opener Sunday inside Hodges Fieldhouse.

Chad Helle will definitely be remembering his first game as head coach of the Iowa Central men’s basketball program.

Helle, who took over for long-time leader Dennis Pilcher after this past season, saw his young Tritons pull out a 71-66 victory over the Mount Mercy JV here Sunday night inside Hodges Fieldhouse.

Former St. Edmond all-stater Andrew Gibb sank a pair of free throws with four seconds left to seal the victory. Gibb scored 16 points on the night.

“It was definitely a little weird being in the role of head coach,” Helle said. “I’d coached several junior varsity games, but this was the varsity level and a big difference.

“It was good to get that first one, and really good for the kids. We’ve got a lot of youth that are still learning the difference between high school and college basketball.”

Marquis Henry scored a game-high 21 points and added seven rebounds, with Javonte Keck recording a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. Keck also had four blocks, four assists and two steals.

Ayris Abdelnassar chipped in nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a pair of free throws late to give Iowa Central a 69-66 lead.

“It’s a tough situation right now because I want to give them some control out there, but with all of them being new, I’ve got to do more play-by-play coaching too,” Helle said. “It’s great to have assistants like Blake (Peterson) and Ky (Kramer) to lean on, but at the same time, they are looking at me to make the decision and decide what we are going to do — just like the kids.”

After building a 61-47 lead late in the second half, the Tritons were unable to put Mount Mercy away. The Mustangs put up 40 three-pointers, hitting 14 of them.

Tyler Kelly scored 18 points, including five triples, and Brady Stoeffler added 11. Barry Doe scored 10 points.

“We’ve got to do a better job of closing teams out,” Helle said. “It’s different in college because everyone is good and no one is really going to just go away. They are going to keep coming until the end and we’ve got to be able to match it.”

Helle, though, was still happy to leave the gym with a victory in his first game as head coach.

“It’s much better to be 1-0 right now than 0-1,” he said. “And I told the team that too.”

Iowa Central returns to action Tuesday when they host Marshalltown at 7:30 p.m. back here.

IOWA CENTRAL 71, MOUNT MERCY JV 66

Iowa Central — Ayris Abdelnassar 3-7 2-2 9, Arthur Weston 1-3 0-0 2, Andrew Gibb 6-13 4-6 16, Javonte Keck 6-13 0-1 12, Marquis Henry 8-21 0-0 21, Maalik Harut 3-5 0-1 7, Nathan Martinek 1-1 0-0 2, Sam Glenn 0-2 0-0 0, D’Monte Gaw 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 29-66 6-10 71.

Mount Mercy JV — Tyler Kelly 18, Brady Stoeffler 11, Barry Doe 10, Nolan Ruff 8, Ryle Koenig 6, Brandon Jackson 8, Julian Hehmann 3, Cody Westcott 2. Totals: 22-62 8-10 66.

Halftime score: Iowa Central led 36-35. Three-point goals: Iowa Central 7-22 (Abdelnassar, Henry 5, Harut); Mount Mercy JV 14-40. Total rebounds: Iowa Central 40, Mount Mercy JV 41. Steals: Iowa Central 6, Mount Mercy JV 6. Assists: Iowa Central 16, Mount Mercy JV 14. Blocked shots: Iowa Central 4, Mount Mercy JV 2.