Some basketball games are classic defensive struggles.
Saturday night’s game at the Hellyer Center was definitely not one of them.
It was just a classic case of two defenses struggling to keep up.
Sixth-ranked Indian Hills had one of their worst nights of defense this season, allowing a regulation-high 95 points to Northeast Nebraska and over 50 percent shooting by the Hawks. Despite that, IHCC never trailed in the second half after a 13-2 run late in the first half put the Warriors ahead for good in a 106-95 Region XI victory.
“There was too much trading baskets. I’m sure a lot of coaches would say that,” Indian Hills head coach Barret Peery said. “The guys found a way to win. It wasn’t our best effort by any means, but that was going to be a challenging game to get up for.”
The Warriors had no problem topping the century mark for the second time this season against the Hawks. Just 17 days ago, IHCC ran away for a 120-89 regional-opening win in Nebraska.
“Given how well we played at their place and how we were able to get through the game there, it was difficult to get the guys to realize that (Northeast) was going to take a good swing at us here,” Peery said.
Right from the opening minutes, Northeast proved they could match the Warriors basket for basket, as the Hawks and IHCC traded seven ties, six lead changes and evenly split 84 points with four minutes left in the opening half.
“It was a pretty tough game and a really fast pace,” freshman guard Gary Williams, Jr. said. “There was definitely a lot of scoring. We’re definitely going to take out of this game that we need to get better defensively.”
Offensively, however, IHCC was nearly flawless with the basketball. The Warriors, who average 20 turnovers a game, committed just two in the first half of play.
“I thought we really did a good job taking care of the basketball,” Peery said. “We took care of the ball, we shared the ball and scored the ball. We just didn’t stop anybody.
“We had to find a few stops to try and win the game.”
The biggest stop broke the final tie of the night at 42-42. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Ronald Ross, who was one of five IHCC players to reach double figures with 18 points, highlighted the run that helped the Warriors open their first double-digit lead at 55-44.
“We kept getting up, but we just couldn’t quite get away,” freshman Majok Deng said. “We finally were able to get away from them enough.”
Seven straight points early in the second half allowed IHCC to double a 57-50 lead. Behind guard Sean McGary’s team-high 23 points and Sean Scott’s near triple-double, Northeast (14-11, 1-4) kept closing the gap and got as close as four.
Sophomore Dustin Hogue helped put the game away. Hogue capped a game-best 24-point night with a slam dunk off of Jelan Kendrick’s 11th assist to cap a 9-1 run that put the Warriors up 105-93 in the final minute.
“The key for us is our balance. We have a lot of depth and we always plan on having a lot of guys contribute,” Peery said.
The victory moves No. 6 Indian Hills to 23-2 on the year and extends the Warriors’ season-best winning streak to nine straight games. IHCC remains alone in first in Region XI and also clinched home-court advantage with their fifth straight regional victory.
Indian Hills can take a major step toward locking up a second straight regular-season regional title next weekend at fifth-ranked Iowa Western. Before that matchup, IHCC hosts Three Rivers on Tuesday, in a rematch of an 81-77 come-from-behind win in Missouri by the Warriors back on Jan. 9.
“Three Rivers has a great post players, two or three good guards and we know they can give us a good battle,” Peery said. “We had a tough game down there. We know we’ll have to be ready to battle them.”
No. 6 (DI) Indian Hills 106, Northeast 95
Northeast (95) — Sean McGary 23, K.J. Bluford 17, Khapri Alston 14, Kyle Kilgore 14, Sean Scott 13, Rasheed Fairley 4, Blake Heppner 4, Jabbar Washington 4, Corey Mitchell 2. Totals 34-66 20-35 95.
3-point goals — 7-19 (Bluford 5-13, Washington 1-1, Scott 1-5). Fouled out — Alston. Rebounds — 41 (Scott 10, Alston 8, Kilgore 8, Bluford 6, Fairley 6, Heppner 2, McGary). Assists — 31 (McGary 9, Scott 9, Bluford 3, Kilgore 3, Alston 2, Washington 2, Fairley, Heppner, Mitchell). Steals — 5 (Bluford 4, Scott). Blocks — 2 (Alston, Washington). Total fouls — 24. Turnovers — 19.
IHCC (106) — Dustin Hogue 24, Ronald Ross 18, Jameel McKay 17, Richard Amardi 16, Jelan Kendrick 16, Ronnie Stevens 6, Frank Williams 4, Gary Williams, Jr. 3, Majok Deng 2. Totals 41-75 20-33 106.
3-point goals — 4-16 (Hogue 2-3, Ross 2-5, Deng 0-1, Williams, Jr. 0-1, Williams 0-2, Kendrick 0-4). Fouled out — Amardi, Rawane Ndiaye. Rebounds — 43 (McKay 8, Deng 7, Hogue 7, Ndiaye 5, Amardi 4, Williams 4, Ross 3, Stevens 2, Williams, Jr. 2, Kendrick). Assists — 35 (Kendrick 11, Hogue 8, Williams, Jr. 4, McKay 3, Ross 3, Williams 3, Deng 2, Amardi). Steals — 12 (Ross 3, Amardi 2, Hogue 2, Williams, Jr. 2, Kendrick, McKay, Ndiaye). Blocks — 3 (McKay 2, Deng). Total fouls — 23. Turnovers — 9.
Halftime: Indian Hills 57, Northeast 48