It had been six years since an Indian Hills basketball team had made the long bus ride to Three Rivers.
It looked like the ride home would seem even longer Wednesday night.
After scoring the first nine points of the game, forcing 24 first-half turnovers and opening as much as a 14-point lead, 13th-ranked Indian Hills found themselves behind on the scoreboard in the final minutes at the Gene Bess Activities Center. With their backs to the wall, the Warriors found their second wind in the nick of time with a final 10-1 run that rallied IHCC to an 81-77 win over the Raiders in IHCC’s fourth straight road game.
“You’re not going to blow a team like Three Rivers out, especially on their home floor,” Indian Hills head coach Barret Peery said. “We’ve got a tired team, but I’m proud that our guys found a way to win.”
Sophomores Jameel McKay and Dustin Hogue were right at the center of the Warriors’ 17th win. The duo each produced double-double efforts by combining for 39 points with both players hauling in 11 rebounds.
McKay, who led IHCC (17-2) with 22 points, started the game-winning rally moments after Three Rivers (12-6) lost their top player. Sophomore Ibrahim Djambo, who had led the Raiders back from a poor start with 26 points and 12 rebounds, was called for his fifth foul while trying to set a screen as the Raiders looked to extend a 73-70 lead with under three minutes left.
On the very next possession, McKay got the ball inside for a lay-up that cut the lead to one with under two minutes left. After a Three Rivers miss, Jelan Kendrick took a feed from Hogue and hung with another lay-up that gave IHCC the lead for good.
“I thought we got ourselves in trouble when we started to settle for jump shots,” Peery said. “We needed to find that aggressive style of play where we attacked the basket and got higher percentage looks.”
The Warriors’ lead remained at one after Jalen Lacy missed just his second free throw in 10 attempts with 43 seconds remaining. After running the clock down, Kendrick attacked the basket again and found Hogue for a lay-up while being fouled, creating a three-point play that put Indian Hills up 78-74 with just 17 seconds left.
“I think we had finally weathered the storm and figured out a way to create one of our own,” Peery said of the Warriors final run.
Kendrick capped a 13-point night of his own with a game-clinching free throw with 1.6 seconds left after James Macklin’s late 3-pointer pulled Three Rivers within 80-77. IHCC hit four straight free throws in the final seconds to clinch the win on a night where the Warriors were their own worst enemy, shooting just 25-42 from the foul line while committing 27 turnovers.
“If we could have done our job at the foul line, it might have been an even bigger lead,” Peery said. “That might have also been a by-product of the travel and our guys not having their legs under them.”
The victory is the third straight for IHCC after losing the opening game of a three-game, five-day run through Arizona last Tuesday at Central Arizona. After beating South Mountain and Mesa to cap the trip, the Warriors made the flight home Sunday to Ottumwa before turning around and traveling on Tuesday down to Poplar Bluff for Wednesday’s game.
“This was kind of like an NBA week,” Perry said. “I think our guys weathered the storms and have won at some very really tough places, especially with these last two wins. I’m proud of the effort they’ve shown.”
The stretch of five straight road games will continue next week for No. 13 IHCC as Region XI play gets under way. The Warriors will face the newest member of the region, Northeast Community College, in Norfolk, Neb. next Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
“We knew if we could get through these four games, we could finally catch our breath. I’m proud of us,” Peery said.
No. 13 (DI) INDIAN HILLS 81, THREE RIVERS 77
IHCC (81) — Jameel McKay 22, Dustin Hogue 17, Jelan Kendrick 13, Richard Amardi 10, Ronald Ross 9, Frank Williams 8, Gary Williams, Jr. 2. Totals 27-58 25-42 81.
3-point goals — 3-13 (Hogue 1-2, Ross 1-4, Williams 1-5). Fouled out — Amardi. Rebounds — 43 (Hogue 11, McKay 11). Assists — 21 (Kendrick 5, Ross 5). Steals — 17 (McKay 4). Blocks — 5 (McKay 2, Ronnie Stevens 2). Total fouls — 27. Turnovers — 27.
Three Rivers (77) — Ibrahim Djambo 26, Jalen Lacy 18, John Meyer 13, Jordan McGowan 6, Eli Sample 5, Brandon Strickland 4, James Macklin 3. Totals 24-58 23-32 77.
3-point goals — 6-18 (Djambo 3-5). Fouled out — Djambo, Strickland. Rebounds — 36 (Djambo 12). Assists — 17 (Nelson Ollie 5). Steals — 12 (Ayinde Sprewell 3). Blocks — 1 (Djambo). Total fouls — 31. Turnovers — 27.
Halftime: Indian Hills 37, Three Rivers 26