All of the close losses to start conference play seemed to have paid off for the Tigers MBB team on Monday, January 26 when the Hawks from Northeast came to town. In a rematch of a game played just 72 hours apart, the Tigers were able to battle the storms that they seemed unable to overcome earlier in the year to prevail with a 67-66 victory in front of a raucous home crowd.
The game was tight throughout with neither team able to open up an extended lead. With twelve lead changes and six ties, the feeling throughout the game was that the contest was going to go down to the wire and that it did. The only question was, which team would be able to step up and make a play when needed.
The answer: Marshalltown. Down by seven with just 1:45 remaining in regulation, it would have been easy for the home team to accept defeat and play out the last 1:45 of their season. But that wasn't what the Tigers had in mind. A three-point shot by Kelton Edwards connected with 1:24 left to play to pull the Tigers within four.
A quick foul by sophomore guard sent Emmette Page to the free-throw line for the Hawks. Page missed the front end of a one-and-one and Edwards secured the rebound. The missed opportunity from the charity stripe would be a sign of things to come for the Hawks down the stretch.
With 1:10 remaining, Foster was fouled and sent to the line. Down by four, Foster sank the first attempt before missing the second. But suddenly it was a one-possession game with 70 seconds to play. Caleb Rihanek gathered the rebound for the Hawks off of the missed free-throw, but immediately had the ball torn from his possession by Kelton Edwards. Edwards then layed the ball in to bring the Tigers to within a single point at 63-64.
On the inbound, the Hawks beat the Tiger press as Page dribbled coast to coast. Page was met at the rim by sophomore Barrirou Ndiaye who rejected the layup attempt by Page. Caleb Rihanek secured the loose ball, gathered, and elevated for an attempt at the rim only to be fouled by Ndiaye to send Rihanek to the free-throw line for two shots. Rihanek made the first attempt before a full timeout by Marshalltown. Following the timeout, the second attempt was no good and Edwards grabbed the board for the Tigers.
Down by two, the Tigers got a shot at the rim with 36 seconds left. The attempt by Juan Coffi caromed off of the rim to JJ Foster who found Edwards beyond the arc. The three point attempt by Edwards missed, but again the Tigers came up with the offensive rebound. This time it was Goran Vidovic who came up with the board and was fouled. The sophomore from Serbia went 1-2 from the line.
Following the made free-throw, the Tigers kept the press on down by one with 25 seconds remaining. The pressure came up huge for the Tigers as they forced a five-second violation on the inbound attempt.
Inbounding from their own baseline, the Tigers ran a 1-4 set looking to hit Edwards on a back screen to the opposite block. The Hawks defense stymied the look and the Tigers had to settle for a safety outlet to Vidovic. Vidovic got the ball to Coffi at the top off the key. Coming off of a ball screen by Edwards, Coffi cut through the defense and hit a highly contested four-footer off the backboard to put the Tigers up one, 66-65 with 12.8 seconds remaining.
The Tigers kept the full-court press on, but Emmette Page broke it via the dribble. After advancing to the frontcourt, the Hawks guard was sent to the line for two free-throws after an ill-advised reach in foul by JJ Foster.
At the line for two, Page, the Hawks leading scorer with 14 looked confident. His first attempt just rimmed out. His second clanked off the right side of the rim and Bassirou Ndiaye secured the defensive rebound before being immeately fouled by Moses Byekwaso.
Ndiaye, who was 4-8 from the charity stipe at the time, had two shots with the Tigers up by one with 5.1 seconds left. The first attempt came up well short and barely grazed the front of the rim. The second again hit the front rim, but took a Tiger bounce, hit off the left side of the rim, and fell through.
Not taking a timeout, the Hawks inbounded the ball down by two points. The inbound by Joel Ufele found a streaking Page in traffic who was fouled by an out of control Ndiaye.
The guard had two shots from the free-throw line to avenge for his two earlier misses just a few moments ago. The guard stroked the first free-throw to bring the visiting Hawks to within one at 67-66. The second attempt hit hard off the back rim. The ball was tipped out and gathered by Juan Coffi as time expired and the Tigers escaped with a 67-66 victory.
Kelton Edwards, the leading scorer in the ICCAC, led the way for the Tigers with 30 points on the night.
The win sends the Tigers to the opening round of the Region XI Tournament to face off with the top seeded Warriors of Indian Hills. The Tigers will travel to Ottumwa, IA for a 7 PM tipoff on Wednesday, January 27.