If Saturday’s game was a prizefight, Marshalltown would have been well ahead on the scorecards.
But if it was a prizefight, eighth-ranked Indian Hills would have scored the knockout shot at the end of the final round.
The shot delivered by sophomore transfer Ronald Ross in the most dramatic fashion possible. The former Vincennes star hit the biggest shot of his brief Warrior career, nailing a lengthy 3-pointer as time expired to give IHCC a come-from-behind 80-77 win Saturday night in their most thrilling regional win yet this year.
“I kind of felt it was going in,” Ross said of his buzzer-beating 3-pointer that set off a wild celebration for the Warriors in the corner of the Marshalltown Student Activities Center. “I got a good look at it and it felt good when I let it go.”
The shot capped a fantastic final two minutes of a game in which IHCC never led by more then the final three-point margin. In fact, Indian Hills only led during the first and last two minutes of the contest.
For the remaining 36 minutes, the scoreboard read in Marshalltown’s favor including a 61-49 edge for the Tigers midway through the second half. But rather then celebrating their first regional win since 2010, the Tigers were left frustrated after losing for the second time in regional play after holding a double-digit lead.
“The kids are definitely disappointed and they should be disappointed,” Marshalltown head coach Brynjar Brynjarrson said after watching his team drop to 15-6 and 0-4 in Region XI. “There’s only two ways you can go from here. Hopefully, we can head in the right direction.”
For Warriors head coach Barret Peery, Saturday’s game was yet another showcase within regional play for Indian Hills to display a mental toughness.
“I think you see night in and night out people go on the road and have to handle tough situations,” Peery said after the Warriors’ first buzzer-beating victory since 2006. “They’re a mature group and they really did a good job answering the bell and handling a tough scenario.”
“When you go on the road and win, you just have to be thankful and get out of town.”
To get a victory at Marshalltown, IHCC found themselves fighting all night to just get out in front. Big first half performances by Chris Caird and Troidell Carter helped Marshalltown to an early 11-3 run that put the Tigers ahead early by six.
Overcoming the deficit, as it turned out, would not be easy for the Warriors. Several runs made by IHCC throughout the night to get within one score would continue to be answered by a Marshalltown run, which helped the Tigers open a 44-35 halftime lead and a 49-39 lead early in the second half.
“I think the guys are realizing that, when you go on the road, teams aren’t just going to roll over for you,” Peery said. “Marshalltown did a great job all night of taking punches and continuing to play and fight.”
Caird continued to deliver big blows for the Tigers, nailing his fourth 3-pointer during a game-best 26-point night with seven minutes to go to put Marshalltown up 66-57. While the Tigers nailed big shots from the perimeter, the Warriors countered back on the inside with double-doubles by sophomores Jameel McKay and Richard Amardi.
McKay, who hadn’t been on the floor since Wednesday’s win over Southeastern due to a knee injury, came on strong after a slow start. The Milwaukee native was ruthless on the glass, snaring 14 rebounds while scoring a team-best 24 points.
“I was a little drained at the start, but as the game went on I started to heat up,” McKay said. “I was just motivated to go out there and lead by example.”
Other sophomores certainly followed McKay in helping IHCC rally back in the final two minutes. Ross, who had missed a potential game-tying layup minutes earlier, gave the Warriors their first lead since a 4-2 edge on a driving bucket that put Indian Hills up 74-73 with under two minutes left.
Cameron Robinson would put Marshalltown back ahead with a pair of free throws in the final minute before Amardi stepped up with two go-ahead free throws of his own. The Canadian transfer then made a late steal of Robinson with 13.9 seconds to go to give IHCC the ball back up 76-75.
“Our team is so talented that I know I just have to do the simple things to give us a chance to win,” Amardi said after scoring 16 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and leading IHCC with three steals and four blocks. “Just rebounding, playing hard and getting stops are things I know I have to do besides being an offensive spark.”
Jelan Kendrick’s free throw with 11.3 left put the Warriors up by two, but Robinson drew a foul and coolly hit two game-tying free throws for Marshalltown with 2.8 seconds left. That led to the play known as ‘Bronco,’ which began with Amardi inbouding to Hogue without a timeout.
Hogue quickly found Ross up-court. The sophomore turned, spotted up and drilled the game winner as the buzzer sounded.
“Coach has been putting it in during practice and we practice it consistently,” Ross said after dramatically capping a 19-point night. “Coach has faith in us that we’ll do the right thing. He drew it up and we got it done.”
Executing the play to perfection was what stood out for Peery right down to the instant choice Hogue made to kick the ball ahead to Ross.
“The extra pass was fantastic. So many times you see kids in that position try to heave a half-court shot up,” Peery said. “For Dustin to make that extra pass and find the closer shooter up the floor was a really neat deal.”
No. 8 (DI) IHCC (21-2) is now alone in first place in Region XI midway through regional play. The Warriors return home for a non-regional test Tuesday night against Moberly at 7 p.m.
No. 8 (DI) Indian Hills 80, Marshalltown 77
IHCC (80) — Jameel McKay 24, Ronald Ross 19, Richard Amardi 16, Jelan Kendrick 7, Dustin Hogue 6, Frank Williams 5, Rawane Ndiaye 2, Gary Williams, Jr. 1. Totals 29-71 19-33 80.
3-point goals — 3-13 (Ross 2-7). Rebounds — 51 (McKay 14). Assists — 19 (Kendrick 8). Steals — 9 (Amardi 3). Blocks — 7 (Amardi 4). Total fouls — 20. Turnovers — 18.
MCC (77) — Chris Caird 26, Troidell Carter 18, Marion Williams 12, Matej Delinac 9, Jamyles Coleman 5, Cameron Robinson 5, Rahiem Holloway 2. Totals 28-69 16-18 77.
3-point goals — 5-22 (Caird 4-7). Rebounds — 37 (Caird 8). Assists — 24 (Holloway 8). Steals — 11 (Coleman 4). Blocks — 2 (Caird, Carter). Total fouls — 27. Turnovers — 16.
Halftime: Marshalltown 44, Indian Hills 35