HICKORY, N.C. - The Iowa Central women went up against two of the best teams in NJCAA Div. II over the past two days here at the national tournament.
After falling to top-ranked Johnson County on Thursday night, the Tritons were tipped by top-seed Kirkwood here Friday in the consolation round, 50-45.
Iowa Central earned a spot in the tournament with a late-season surge that saw them top Des Moines Area for the district title. They were awarded a forfeit win in the first round at nationals after Macomb could not compete.
Following the heartbreaking loss to Johnson County in the quarterfinals, 63-60, the Tritons were unable to best their ICCAC rival Kirkwood, who claimed all three games this season in the series.
"I'm just so proud of this team," Iowa Central head coach Brian Ortmeier said. "We talked after the game about all that we've accomplished this year. There were a lot of great things, it's just tough because they didn't achieve their ultimate goal.
"But they still have a lot to be proud of."
Isabell West had another double-double in her final game, scoring 14 points with 18 rebounds and three assists. Carley West added 10 points and seven rebounds, with both Autumn Dykstra and Nevaeh Galloway scoring six each.
"It's rare that you would play the No. 1 team all season and flip around and play the No. 1 seed on back-to-back days in a national tournament," Ortmeier said. "But we played hard both days. A couple things just didn't go our way."
Iowa Central made a charge to end the third after buckets by McKinney, Engbrecht and Galloway, cutting the deficit to 35-34. They outscored the Eagles 17-13 in the third.
"We got away from what has been working all year on offense," Ortmeier said. "Instead of moving the ball quicker and setting better picks, we played a little too much 1-on-1 basketball."
Kirkwood moves to the fifth-place game to face USC Salkehatchie on Saturday. Ashley Tull led the Eagles with 13 points.
-By Dana Becker