Ottumwa -- A suffocating second-half defensive effort along with some clutch plays by a variety of different players who stepped up in the absence of the team's leading scorer allowed Indian Hills to move into the conference postseason title game with a 76-65 win against Marshalltown CC at the Hellyer Center on Wednesday night.
Now, the Warriors and Southeastern -- who tied for the regular-season crown with 7-1 marks -- will determine the region's postseason champ at the Hellyer Center on Saturday night. The two teams split during the regular campaign, each winning at home.
Indian Hills' spot in the Saturday finale was very much in doubt with under 13 minutes to play as Marshalltown controlled the tempo, took a halftime lead and expanded it to as many as nine points in the early stages of the final period.
MCC was on top 51-43 after a JJ Foster field goal, and the score was 53-47 a minute later. Nick Wagner provided the Warriors the kick-start they were searching for, hitting two 3-pointers with a Tyon Grant-Foster bucket sandwiched in between. The quick 8-0 spurt gave IHCC its first lead since the score was 21-20.
Eduardo Lane split a pair of free throws for MCC and Devontae Lane then drilled four consecutive foul shots to give the home team some breathing room. Iziah James, who led all scorers with 22 points, hit a spinning layup in the lane and Tyler Chisom dropped in two free throws to complete what was an 18-3 run, over a seven-minute span when Marshalltown failed to make a field goal.
Once they got the lead, the Warriors sealed the victory by making eight straight at the line, where they were 18-of-20 for the night.
The Tigers were clicking in the first half, making 53 percent of their shots, including 7-of-12 from behind the arc. They didn't make a single three after intermission, however, missing all nine of their attempts.
Kelton Edwards connected on all four of his 3-point tries in the first half, but added only one bucket in the final 20 minutes. He and Juan Coffi scored 16 for the Tigers and Coffi added a game-high 13 rebounds.
Indian Hills played without Tomas Woldetensae, the scoring leader at 17.3 ppg, who was sidelined with a left-wrist injury.
James assumed more of the ball-handling responsibilities with Woldetensae out and played a near-flawless floor game, dishing out nine assists with no turnovers.
The win was IHCC's 14th in its last 15 outings. The only loss in that stretch was at Southeastern, 73-72, on Feb. 16. If the Warriors can avenge that defeat it would mark their 6th postseason championship in a row. Indian Hills has a current streak of 11 straight regular-season league titles.
INDIAN HILLS 76, MARSHALLTOWN 65
INDIAN HILLS (26-5, 7-1)
Devontae Lane 3 4-4 11, Lance Singh 0 0-0 0, Iziah James 7 6-6 22, Nick Wagner 3 0-0 8, Tyon Grant-Foster 4 2-2 11, Josh Nicholas 1 0-0 2, Tajim Smith 1 0-0 2, JD Muila 2 0-0 4, Anthony Bratton 0 0-0 0, Tyler Chisom 1 2-4 4, Torrey Patton 4 4-4 12 Team 26 18-20 76
MARSHALLTOWN (15-15, 2-6)
Kelton Edwards 6 0-0 16, Goran Vidovic 2 2-2 7, Juan Coffi 5 4-4 16, Eduardo Lane 5 4-8 14, JJ Foster 2 2-5 6, Bassirou Ndiaye 3 0-0 6, Palmi Thorsson 0 0-0 0 Team 23 12-19 65
Halftime score: Marshalltown 40, Indian Hills 33; Three-point field goals: IHCC 6 (Wagner 2, James 2, Lane 1, Grant-Foster 1), MCC 7 (Edwards 4, Coffi 2, Vidovic 1)