CRESTON — For the first time since 2018, the Southwestern Community College mens basketball team will play in the ICCAC regional semifinals, tonight against Ellsworth in the Student Center Gymnasium.
Not only is Southwestern playing in the semifinals, but it gets to host a matchup with Ellsworth Community College. The Spartans advanced to this game following a major comeback in Council Bluffs Tuesday night. At the halftime break, they trailed by seven, before scoring 52 second half points and taking down Iowa Western 81-76.
SWCC’s opponent for this regional contest, Ellsworth, is the 8-seed in the tournament, but the Panthers upset No. 1 DMACC Tuesday to advance. The Spartans have seen Ellsworth twice this year, splitting their two meetings.
On February 13, a home contest for Southwestern, the Spartans dropped the game 73-55. Then on March 27, in a road trip to Ellsworth, Southwestern dominated the game, winning 71-49. It was a tale of two different games for head coach Devin Kastrup’s bunch.
In only year two, Kastrup has the Spartans playing for a regional final bid. This is the first year since making the national tournament in 2018 that Southwestern has advanced past the opening round in the ICCAC regional tournament.
Throughout the year, Southwestern has played extremely well most of the time. Unfortunately, the consistency hasn’t been there just yet. This year, Southwestern has defeated six rated teams but sit at only 12-11 on the season.
Despite the struggles to end the regular season, Southwestern was able to take down the team that defeated them barely a week prior. Now the Spartans prepare for the rubber match against Ellsworth.
Entering this game, Southwestern looks to continue to shoot the ball at a high level. In the second half of the regional quarterfinals, the Spartans shot it a 48% from the floor and 58% in the second half alone. Kastrup has preached to his team since taking the job that they need to be patient but also not afraid to take shots.
For the Spartans to advance to the regional final, they feel they will also need to be balanced across the board. In games this year where the Spartans have won and won big, they were balanced in scoring. This has been something Kastrup has enjoyed seeing because he feels his guys are willing to give up a shot for a better one.
In Southwestern’s regional quarterfinal win, there were four Spartans in double figures and nine that got into the scorebook on the night. That’s the balance the Spartans need on a nightly basis. Lately, they’ve had that which make it difficult for teams to guard and slow down. So many options on the floor gives the Spartans a better chance to exploit the areas on offense they want to.
Defensively, Southwestern has been really good on the glass. They collected 32 rebounds in the victory Tuesday. Thirty-one of those came on the defensive glass. Also on the defensive side, Southwestern has forced many turnovers and has taken advantage of other team’s mistakes. The Spartans forced 12 turnovers Tuesday and 16 turnovers when they played Ellsworth in March.
Where the Spartans need to be on alert is the offensive glass, but also for the momentum that Ellsworth brings to Creston. Southwestern had one offensive rebound in the win. They got the win, but they will need more boards on that side of the ball to advance further.
Ellsworth’s momentum coming off of their upset could be a factor early in tonight’s game, Kastrup estimates. Once the first few minutes wear off, Southwestern’s shooting and defense should be interesting to see as Ellsworth tries to keep up. Nate Duckworth and James Kelley have been the go-to guys this year on the offensive end for the Spartans, however look out for Donzell Johnson and even Justin Graham, who’ve both come up big throughout the season.
The Spartans look to advance to their first regional final since 2018. When they’ve gotten to that game, they’ve done well. In the last two trips to the regional semifinal, Southwestern has been victorious as well.