Council Bluffs, IA -- Good teams find a way to win on nights when they are not playing overly well. That will be the takeaway for the Iowa Western men's team on their 78-73 opening day win over Labette (KS) in the 2018 Iowa Western Classic.
From the start, the visiting Cardinals from the Kansas Jayhawk Conference took early control of the contest. Early missed opportunities by the Reivers and solid unselfish team play by Labette saw the lead grow to ten points for the team from the Sunflower State midway through the first half. Iowa Western was able to rally late in the first frame and closed the gap to a single point at halftime, trailing 30-29.
In the second half, Labette once again went to work early and often; this time building an eight point lead in the half's opening moments. Though the Reivers could never quite get on-track, their resolve was solid, never once panicking as the games final six minutes arrived with the Cardinals still holding the lead. Moving under that six minute mark; Iowa Western, who had shown enough toughness to keep the game within one or two possessions after that aforementioned first few moments of the second half, make their key run of the ball game; and took the lead for good with 4:23 remaining. From there, the Reivers built their lead out to seven points with 1:35 to go and bled the clock out the remainder of the contest. In those final moments, the Reivers executed well from the charity stripe as Marques Watson converted on all four of his late game free-throw attempts; with Christian Bentley making 3/4 foul shots during that key time. The win marks the third time Iowa Western has shown it's resolve and overcome a halftime deficit to win a contest this season.
The Reivers where led in scoring for the second straight contest by Caleb Huffman's 18 points and 4/9 three point shooting; Travon Broadway also added 15 points as the Reivers only other double-digit scorer for the evening. Labette's Keondre Kennedy led all scorers with a 29 point effort for the Cardinals who will now play Iowa Central in the third place consolation game tomorrow afternoon at 3:00pm.
With the win, coupled with Northeastern's (CO) 84-78 victory over Iowa Central in game one of the 2018 Iowa Western Classic, the Reivers are set for yet another defacto "championship game" of a classic tomorrow evening at Reiver Arena between Iowa Western and Northeastern. Iowa Western has already won two previous classics this season; first with the Holiday Inn / Hampton Inn Reiver Classic, and then the Cloud County Thanksgiving T-Bird Classic in early and late November respectively. Tip time between the Reivers and Plainsmen is slated for 7:00pm.