Chad Helle can see the improvements from his Iowa Central men's team.
And while the end result of wins has yet to fully come, Helle knows that all it takes is one to turn the corner.
The Tritons were unable to completely get over the hump here Saturday night, falling to Southeastern, 78-70.
"We played really, really well," Helle said. "It was like an old-school game where every possession was important. We'd punch them, they would counter-punch and back-and-forth we went.
"Really, over the past two weeks minus the Iowa Lakes game, we've been playing better. Have we won? No, but sometimes in athletics, you bust your butt and don't always get the reward. You just have to keep coming back and keep working."
"Javonte did Javonte things and I thought Uzo played his best game," Helle said. "We went with Ayris (Abdelnassar), Javonte, Uzo, Jaxon (Smith) and Jett (Pinneo) down the stretch and those guys really played well together."
Abdelnassar, Keck, Dibiamaka and Smith all played the entire 20 minutes of the second half. Abdelnassar had 16 points, four assists, two steals, two rebounds and zero turnovers with Pinneo adding nine points, three assists and three rebounds.
For Southeastern, Kennedy Milton scored 17 with Jesiah West adding 12. Gavin Kies and Nariq Chisholm each scored 11.
"It was just a good college basketball game," Helle said. "Not a lot of sloppy play, good, hard defense and both teams giving everything they had. In the end, they were just a little bit better and got the win, but I can't fault the effort of our guys."
Iowa Central heads to Boone on Wednesday to face fifth-ranked Des Moines Area before concluding the regular season at home next Saturday vs. Kirkwood.
-By Dana Becker