IOWA FALLS - It was a game of runs, and in the end, the Iowa Central men made just enough plays to remain unbeaten on the season.
The 14th-ranked Tritons used a big 3-pointer from freshman Jaxon Smith along with a key late defensive rebound by sophomore Javonte Keck to post a thrilling 81-79 victory over Ellsworth here Wednesday night.
"In our league, you have to be ready to play every night," ICCC head coach Chad Helle said. "We weren't ready, but we survived."
Playing on the road for the first time after back-to-back wins inside Hodges Fieldhouse over North Iowa Area and Iowa Western, Iowa Central (3-0 overall, 3-0 in ICCAC) found itself in a hole early on.
But as would be the case for much of the game, a big run changed the momentum.
The Tritons scored nine consecutive and 12 of 14 to take a 22-17 lead in the first half. The Panthers, though, would claim the lead at the break, 36-33.
A big triple to cut the deficit to three right before the intermission helped spark Iowa Central out of the gates as they scored 19 straight to begin the second half, going up 52-36.
Ellsworth chipped into the Triton lead before another 18-4 run seemed to put the game away. Once more, though, the Panthers made several clutch shots and tied the game at 76-all with 55 seconds left.
That's when Smith worked free and knocked down a triple to give Iowa Central the lead for good. Keck pulled in a rebound off a missed three-point attempt to seal the deal.
Up next for the Tritons will be another road date, this time in Creston against Southwestern on Saturday. The Spartans (1-2, 1-2) fell to Iowa Western last night, 78-73.
-By Dana Becker