Small College Sports

Cedar Rapids Jefferson grad Royshawn Webb helps Iowa Central rally past Kirkwood, 75-74

Fifth-seeded Tritons (21-11) end regional semifinal with 25-10 burst

Iowa Central freshman Royshawn Webb (12) goes up for a shot in a men's basketball game earlier this season. Webb, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, helped Iowa Central defeat Kirkwood, 75-74, in an NJCAA regional semifinal at Johnson Hall on March 8, 2018. (Photo by Britt Kudla/Britt Kudla Photography)
Iowa Central freshman Royshawn Webb (12) goes up for a shot in a men's basketball game earlier this season. Webb, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, helped Iowa Central defeat Kirkwood, 75-74, in an NJCAA regional semifinal at Johnson Hall on March 8, 2018. (Photo by Britt Kudla/Britt Kudla Photography)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — If you ask Iowa Central men’s basketball coach Dennis Pilcher who the most improved player on his team is, he points to the freshman from Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

While 6-foot-3 guard Royshawn Webb has started all but one game and ranks third on the team in scoring and rebounding, Pilcher says his value to the Tritons has been more than mere numbers.

“Man, has he made improvement, has he worked,” Pilcher said after fifth-seeded Iowa Central rallied for a 75-74 victory over top-seeded Kirkwood in an NJCAA regional semifinal Thursday night at Johnson Hall. “He knocked down some shots today because people weren’t guarding him. He’s worked hard in the gym, improved his shot. Obviously Tray Croft is our best basketball player, but right now I think Royshawn might be our MVP because he just guards, he rebounds, knocks some shots down. He does all the little things that a lot of times don’t show up in that (statistic sheet) right there. Man, he’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Against Kirkwood, Webb scored 16 points with six made baskets in 10 attempts, plus two rebounds, two assists and two steals. It was his 16th double-figure scoring effort this season and fifth in a row.

“It’s been a humbling experience just being able to play with these types of players and just being at the college level,” said Webb, who led Jefferson in scoring at 15.3 points per game last season.

Iowa Central (21-11) is led by Croft, its super sophomore guard from Alabama. No player in the ICCAC scored more points this season than the 6-foot-1 slasher. With 31 points against the Eagles, Croft upped his scoring average to 27.5 points per game.

His jumper in the paint with 4.4 seconds left gave the Tritons the lead for good.

“My team trusts in me a lot,” Croft said. “So they give it to me and I just make the play for them.”

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The Croft game-winner capped a tremendous Triton rally from a 64-50 deficit midway through the second half. Iowa Central closed the game with a 25-10 burst, highlighted by 11 points from Croft.

“It all started on defense,” Webb said. “Coach always tells us to try to get two or three stops each possession. We grinded hard on defense and we got back on offense and just executed. That is what it came down to.”

Iowa Central will visit third-seeded Southwestern (25-7) on Saturday for a berth in the national tournament.

Freshman post Doug Wilson had 31 points and eight rebounds for Kirkwood, which ends at 24-6.

“We had a great year,” Kirkwood Coach Bryan Petersen said. “We won the regular-season conference championship, which is really hard to do. We won it by two games. So that was something that I wanted to make sure the guys understood, but at the same time there are things we can learn from tonight.”

Men’s basketball

NJCAA DIVISION II REGIONAL SEMIFINAL

At Johnson Hall

Iowa Central 75, Kirkwood 74

IOWA CENTRAL (75): Tray Croft 13-26 1-2 31, Royshawn Webb 6-10 1-2 16, Dallas Bailey 1-6 2-2 5, Collin Shannon 7-10 0-0 18, Thomas Akamarmoi 0-1 0-0 0, Kane Kramer 0-2 0-0 0, Kemryn Jenkins 0-1 2-2 2, Raphael Jegede 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 28-57 7-9 75.

KIRKWOOD (74): Bailey Kane 2-3 0-0 4, Ethan Meeker 4-8 0-0 11, Chris King 2-12 1-2 5, Doug Wilson 11-13 3-4 25, Kyle Arrington 1-3 0-0 2, LJ Stansbury 3-5 3-5 9, Jay Small 0-1 0-0 0, Tajen Ross 0-1 0-0 0, Carlo Marble 7-9 0-0 18, Taejuan Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-55 7-11 74.

Halftime — Kirkwood 45, Iowa Central 35. 3-point goals — ICC 12-30 (Croft 4-11, Webb 3-4, Bailey 1-4, Shannon 4-7, Akamarmoi 0-1, Kramer 0-2, Jenkins 0-1), Kirkwood 7-18 (Kale 0-1, Meeker 3-6, King 0-4, Stansbury 0-1, Small 0-1, Marble 4-5). Rebounds — ICC 22 (Croft 9), Kirkwood 30 (Wilson 8). Assists — ICC 9 (Croft 3,Akamarmoi 3), Kirkwood 19 (King 6). Steals — ICC 6 (Webb 2, Akamarmoi 2), Kirkwood 4 (Meeker 2). Turnovers — ICC 10 (Croft 5), Kirkwood 15 (Wilson 4). Team fouls — ICC 10, Kirkwood 13. Fouled out — None.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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