FOREST CITY – Anna Jones (Fr.-Canton, Ill.) scored the go-ahead lay-up with just over a minute left and Iowa Wesleyan College clinched the Midwest Collegiate Conference regular season championship with a 68-63 win over Waldorf College Saturday afternoon at Waldorf’s Hanson Fieldhouse.
The Tigers hit four free throws in the final 16 seconds to secure the game and finish as outright MCC regular season champions for the second time in four years. IWC (19-9 overall, 14-2 conference) also clinched the top seed in the MCC postseason tourney and with it home court advantage throughout the tourney.
IWC’s conference title is its first since 2005-06 and it didn’t come easy. Wesleyan received a battle from the Warriors throughout the contest, which had 10 ties and 16 lead changes. Waldorf (14-16 overall, 9-7 MCC) led by four points at halftime and held a 57-53 lead with just over four minutes left in the game, but the Tigers closed the game on a 15-6 run.
IWC started its closing kick with a three-pointer from Ali DeVries (Jr.-Bellevue, Iowa) and a jumper from Heather Larson (Jr.-Canton, Ill.) to take a 58-57 lead with 3:20 left. The teams then traded baskets for the next two minutes before Jones drove in and scored to make it 64-63 with 1:08 left in the game.
The Warriors’ Sarah Swanson missed a jumper on Waldorf’s next possession, and the Tigers were able to hold the ball until Rachel Mitchell (Sr.-Des Moines, Iowa) was put on the line for a one-and-one free throw opportunity with 16.6 seconds left. Mitchell made both, and Waldorf turned it over while trying to set up a tying three-point shot. Brittany Okland (Sr.-Kelley, Iowa) then hit two free throws with 5.6 seconds left for the final margin.
Wesleyan trailed 31-27 at halftime and fell behind by as many as nine points in the second half, trailing 47-38 with 13:06 left in the game. The Tigers shot 50.0% in the second half, though, (16-for-32) and limited the Warriors to 12-for-31 shooting for the second half, including just five makes in their final 19 shots of the game.
Okland led IWC with 17 points, making five of six shots and seven of eight free throws. Okland also tied Jones for team rebounding honors with seven. Mitchell added 16 points, and Larson and DeVries both added 12. DeVries scored all 12 of her points in the second half.
The Tigers made 24 of 60 shots in the game (40.0%), recovering from an icy first half in which the team made eight of 28 shots (28.6%) and just two of 13 three-point tries. IWC also committed just six turnovers, its lowest total of the season and the lowest turnover total for a game in Head Coach Steve Williamson’s five-year career at Wesleyan.
Swanson led Waldorf with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Rachel Hannam had 10 points and nine rebounds. The Warriors shot 36.5% (23-for-63) and out-rebounded Wesleyan 44-37.
IWC now waits to find out its opponent for its MCC Tournament opener. The Tigers will face either eighth-seeded Clarke College or ninth seed William Penn University Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Ruble Arena. The MCC tourney semifinals will then take place Saturday at 2 p.m., with the championship game Monday night at 7 p.m. All tourney games are played at the site of the highest seeded team, and Wesleyan carries a 22-game home court winning streak into the tourney.
For more information regarding the IWC basketball programs or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.