Winning the Region XI title is never easy, but the Iowa Lakes men made it look that way, leading from start to finish in a 64-51 victory over Ellsworth on Sunday.
The win propels the Lakers to the NJCAA National Division II Tournament for the first time since 2000 and the fourth time in school history.
"What a wonderful feeling," said Iowa Lakes coach Troy Larson. "To have a season's worth of work to put us in position do this in front of our home crowd."
The 2012-13 Iowa Lakes Men’s Basketball Team holds up the Region XI Tournament trophy following a 64-51 victory over Ellsworth on Sunday in Estherville. The win qualifies the Lakers for the NJCAA?National Division II Tournament, which begins Tuesday, March 19 in Danville, Ill.
EDN photo by David Swartz
After Friday's thrilling overtime 88-86 victory over Iowa Central, Sunday's game may have seemed a little anticlimactic.
The Lakers jumped out to an early lead and held a 25-17 lead at halftime. Ellsworth battled back to within four points early in the second half and was with five, 40-35, with about 8 minutes left in the game.
But Region XI Tournament MVP Ben Shellim hit consecutive 3-pointers to push the Lakers advantage to double digits.
The lead only got within 10 once more with a late 3-pointer by Malcolm Canada that made the score 48-49 with 46.3 seconds left. However, the Lakers closed out the game at the free throw line while Ellsworth made just one more field goal.
Iowa Lakes starting guard Kevin Larson said the thing he likes best about this Laker squad is its "togetherness."
"We love each other like family," he said. "Before every game, that's what we say in the huddle, 'Family'. All our parts can beat one player every time."
Larson, a 6-1 sophomore from New Ulm, Minn., is one of two players who have been part of the squad each of the last two seasons. The other is 6-8 center Josh Schaben of Harlan.
Larson scored all four of his points in the opening minutes of the game, hitting a floater in the lane and then cutting to the basket and receiving a pass from Kelly Madison to give the Lakers a 7-2 lead.
Both teams' defenses played tough as Ellsworth only had five points through the first 10 minutes of he game with the Lakers lead 13-5.
The score was 13-10 when Madison hit a 3-pointer at the 7:27 mark. That was followed by a basket by Schaben. A Larson steal led to a layup by Deondre Parks to put Iowa Lakes up 20-12. Shellim then hit his first 3-pointer to push the lead to 23-12 with about 5 minutes left in the half.
Canada answered with a 3-pointer of his own and later hit a jumper at the halftime buzzer.
But the Lakers came out firing to start the second quarter as Parks and Schaben both scored on the Lakers' first tow possessions and Madison followed it up with his second 3-pointer to push the Laker lead to 32-17 with 17:21 left in the game.
Ellsworth battled to keep pace and eventually put together enough shots to pull within four at 33-29 with 12:47 left in the game. After two free throws by Parks, Mark Miedema came up big on the next Laker possession. After Miedema grabbed two offensive rebounds, Ben Shellim drove the lane and dumped the ball to Miedema for his only field goal of the game to put the Lakers back up 37-29.
Parks led the Lakers with 17 points including 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Shellim finished with 14 points including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Madison had 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Schaben and Diamontae McKinley each finished with five points while Larson and Harmon each had four and Miedema had three. Parks had a team-high seven rebounds. Larson finished with three assists and three steals.
Ellsworth shot 27 percent (14-of-52) for the game while the Lakers were shot 44 percent (19-of-43).
After the game, Shellim was named Region XI Tournament MVP. Madison and Parks were also named to the Region XI All-Tournament Team along with Ellsworth Canada and Jared Fulks and Iowa Central's Rhys Elliot.
Following the awards' presentation, Coach Larson thanked the college president and administration, the fans, the assistant coaches, the players, his parents and his wife for their support of the team.
Iowa Lakes 64, Ellsworth 51
Iowa Lakes (64) - Colton Neff 1-2 2-2 4; Josh Schaben 2-3 1-2 6; Ben Shellim 4-8 2-2 14; Deondre Parks 3-9 10-12 17; Kevin Larson 2-2 4; Diamontae McKinley 2-6 1-2 5; Tate Harmon 0-1 0-0 0; Kelly?Madison 4-11 2-4 12; Mark Miedema 1-1 1-2 3.
Ellsworth (51) - David Weathers 0-3 0-0 0;?Malcolm Canada 4-20 8-8 19; Antone Moore 0-2 0-0 0; Jared Fulks 3-8 0-0 6; Derrell Lamb 0-1 0-0 0; David Dep 1-2 0-0 2; Tonnie Collier 2-7 6-7 11; Darvell Brown 0-1 0-2 0; Dwayne Haley 0-0 0-0 0; Gerrardo Ibarro 0-0 0-0 0; Abrie Anderson 4-8 3-5 13
Halftime score - Iowa Lakes 25, Ellsworth 17. 3-pointers - Ellsworth 6 (Canada 3, Anderson 2, Collier); Iowa Lakes 7 (Shellim 4, Madison 2, Parks 1). Rebounds - Ellsworth 29 (Collier 9); Iowa Lakes 26 (Parks 7). Assists - Ellsworth 4 (Canada 4); Iowa Lakes 13 (Madison 3, Larson 3). Steals - Ellsworth 6 (Canada 2, Anderson 2); Iowa Lakes 5 (Larson 3); Blocked Shots - Ellsworth 2; Iowa Lakes 0. Turnovers - Ellsworth 10; Iowa Lakes 13. Total Fouls - Ellsworth 23. Iowa Lakes 17. Fouled out - Canada. Technicals - Ellsworth 1.