Sedalia, MO -- The Iowa Western men's basketball team found themselves in yet another familiar scenario, trailing the #9 team in the nation, Moberly (MO) by 16 points midway through the first half of game seven of the Iowa /Missouri Challenge in Sedalia, MO Saturday (11/9) afternoon. Earlier this week, the Reivers trailed Butler (KS) Tuesday (11/5) evening by as many as 17 points before coming back to win at Reiver Arena; and as in that contest, the Reivers would ultimately prevail in Saturday's affair with a stirring 98-96 victory over Moberly secured in the game's final seconds.
From the start Moberly showed they were every bit an NJCAA top ten team, as the Greyhounds slowly built a lead over the game's first 10 minutes; and when Eddie Creal knocked in a 12 footer with 9:42 to go until half time, the Greyhound lead was 44-28. After a called time out by Iowa Western, the Reivers steadied themselves a bit and by halftime had cut that original 16 point deficit in half to a 52-44 Greyhound advantage at the break.
The majority of the second half would be played entirely between a 6 to 11 point advantage for Moberly as the Reivers could close no closer, yet never completely caved in. Finally, it was the Greyhounds, who could not shake their opponents from Council Bluffs, who began to relent just a bit, as Iowa Western went on an 8-2 run that would give Iowa Western its first lead of the game on a Damontrez Ruffin lay-in with 5:22 remaining at 85-83. That lead, however, lasted only 4 seconds as Moberly was fouled and converted both free throws to even the game. From there, both teams would exchange three seperate lead advatages the rest of the way.
The game's final two minutes was a possession by possession battle. Moberly took a 4 point lead with 1:33 to go, but Jalen Dalcourt scored for the Reivers on a back cut and was fouled with 52 seconds to play. He converted the charity shot to bring the Reivers within one point at 94-93. On the ensuing Moberly possession, Cortez Mosely scored in the paint on a dump down pass to push the Greyhound advantage to three, 96-93. Following a time out, Josiah Strong hit a three-point shot from behind the arch to tie the affair at 96 with just 26 seconds remaining. Moberly had the ball with the shot clock turned off, but under the Reivers' half-court pressure, shot the ball from the corner well short with 11 seconds still remaining. Reiver forward Seneca Louis skyed for the errant shot and was able to grab the airball attempt out of the air. Iowa Western elected not to call a timeout as their advantage in numbers seemed to be available. Louis delivered a quick outlet to Strong who raced down the floor with the game's final moments evaporating; he then threw the ball across the court to a streaking Kaleb Thornton, who weaving through several defenders, found himself at the rim with 4 seconds remaining. Thornton scored; putting the Reivers up for just the third time all day, and when Moberly's half-court heave went begging the Reivers had secured a thrilling 98-96 victory over the nation's #9 team.
The win also had added significance to the inaugural IA/MO event, as it secured at least no worse than a tie for the ICCAC Iowa member schools over their Missouri counterparts in the eight-team, two day challenge of basketball bragging rights; and when Indian Hills toppled State Fair in the eighth and final game of the event, Iowa indeed did claim a 5-3 challenge win over Missouri.
Showing the game was a complete team effort, the Reivers had five players score in double figures and three more with 9 to 8 points in the contest. Strong led all Reivers in scoring with 20 points, Dalcourt (18), Alec Spence (11), Caleb Huffman and Louis (10 apiece), Ruffin and Thornton (9 apiece), and Mal Pine (8) rounded out the aforementioned balanced scoring for Iowa Western.
Up next for Iowa Western is a return to Reiver Arena this Tuesday (11/12) evening against Iowa Central. The tip between the Reivers and Tritons is slated for 6:00 pm.