Tritons ready to take the court at nationals
HICKORY, N.C. — The Iowa Central women’s basketball team will finally take the court here Thursday at the NJCAA Div. II National Tournament.
After receiving a forfeit win in the opening round, the Tritons will take on No. 4 seed Johnson County, which advanced with an 86-49 victory over Grand Rapids. Tip is set for 8 p.m. Iowa time.
Johnson County was the No. 1 ranked team heading into the postseason before falling in its Region 6 championship game to Kansas City-Kansas. The Lady Cavaliers (20-1 overall) received the lone at-large selection among the 16-team field.
“We’ve just been working on getting better each day,” Iowa Central head coach Brian Ortmeier said. “Focusing in on what we can control and what we can practice. Once we knew Macomb was out, we started looking at both teams that we might play.”
Iowa Central has played its best basketball down the stretch, winning seven in a row and nine of 10 including a victory over Des Moines Area to punch its ticket to nationals.
A key road win over Southeastern with the Tritons sitting at 4-7 overall helped spark the run.
“I look back to that trip to Southeastern as the turning point,” Ortmeier said. “We were facing a long trip and staying overnight in a hotel the night before. There were a lot of things that could deter our focus, but we threw on a press to try something a little different to get our kids more focused, more engaged, and we jumped on them 18-0.
“From that point, they believed they could play defense and that really started it all.”
Ortmeier, in his first season as head coach of the Tritons, was named the North Central B District Coach of the Year.
Isabell West, who has signed with Murray State, was named the ICCAC Player of the Year. She leads the Tritons in scoring and rebounding with Nevaeh Galloway averaging nearly a double-double per game. Galloway was the conference defensive player of the year.
Jordan Engbrecht, Carley West and Autumn Dykstra round out the starting lineup with Nevaeh Moeschter and former Webster City standout Taylor McKinney providing key roles off the bench.
“With Bell and Nevaeh, we know what we are going to get from them night in and night out,” Ortmeier said. “But just like the girls buying into what we wanted to do on defense, all of them having that confidence to step up and produce has made us a different team.
“When you have three, four or five girls on the court that all feel like they can get the job done, you are difficult to defend.”
The winner between Iowa Central and Johnson County faces either Kirkwood or Illinois Central in the semifinals Friday night.