Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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King me! Kirkwood escapes NIACC

The defending national champions were in trouble Tuesday night in the  opening round of the regional tournament when Da'Rion King came came  to the rescue for the Kirkwood Eagles.

King muscled in 12 points during a key six-minute stretch late in the  game to help the 15th-ranked Eagles escape NIACC, 78-71, in a tense  ballgame at Johnson Hall.

Kirkwood (24-6) will host 19th-ranked Iowa Lakes (22-8) in the NJCAA  Division II regional semifinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

King, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Racine, Wis., finished with 23 points  and 11 rebounds for the Eagles, doubling his season-long averages of  11.1 points and 5.6 boards.

The Eagles constructed a 15-point lead in the first half, but NIACC  stormed back in the second half with a 16-0 run and grabbed a 50-45  lead with 11:20 left in the ballgame.

All of a sudden, Kirkwood's shot at winning another national title was  in severe jeopardy.

Chris King scored for Kirkwood to make it 50-47 and Shakur Triplett  completed a three-point play to pull the Eagles into a 50-50 tie with  10:35 remaining, helping to stem the tide.

That's when Da'Rion King took over.

King furnished a three-point play to give the Eagles a 53-50 lead,  then he converted another three-point play with a layup and free throw  to make it 56-52 for the home team.

King then tipped in a shot and then scored with an assist from Chris  King to give the Eagles a 60-54 advantage, giving him 10 straight  points for Kirkwood. He scored again shortly after, making it 64-59  with about four minutes left.

It was a dominating stretch by King and helped save the team.

"Our intensity went down and they got up five points," he said. "I was  just thinking, 'I've got to bring energy and bring my team right along  with me.'

"I had to get the crowd into it, get my teammates into it and just  turn it to something good."

NIACC pulled within three points at 64-61, 67-64 and 70-67 with 1:33  remaining, but got no closer.

Miles Wentzien made a tough drive to the bucket, got fouled and  completed the three-point play for Kirkwood for a 73-67 edge with 1:09  left.

Carlo Marble made one free throw with 37.8 seconds to go for a 74-69  lead, then NIACC missed a pair of 3-pointers on the same possession.

Wentzien made two free throws with 12.3 seconds left to give the  Eagles a 76-69 lead and shut the door. He added two more foul shots  with 5.2 secondes left after NIACC had pulled within 76-71.

Da'Rion King was a key member of the team last year when Kirkwood  captured the NJCAA Division II national title. Now as a sophomore,  he's coming down the stretch of his junior college career and does not  want to see it end too soon.

"It's been like that the last couple of weeks," he said. "I've been  thinking, 'This is my last few games.' This could have been the last  game.

"I just want to go out with a bang. I can't go out sad," said King.  "That's what my teammates talk about all the time. We cannot go our  sad."

It could have been a sad ending Tuesday, but King helped save the day.

"He was great," said Coach Bryan Petersen. "We were struggling to  score the basketball. He was huge for us tonight."

Two other Eagles had double-doubles. Wentzien finished with 19 points  and 12 rebounds, while Triplett had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Chris  King scored 13 points.

Kirkwood owned the backboards, 45-30, but the Eagles hurt themselves  with 17 turnovers.

The five starters for NIACC scored only 27 points, but the visitors  got 44 points from three reserves. Ben Moss scored 23 for NIACC (16-15).

Kirkwood and Iowa Lakes split their season series this year, each  winning at home. The Eagles drubbed the Lakers by 31 points Feb. 4,  but the Lakers returned the favor with a 28-point drubbing this past  Saturday in the final game of the regular season. Now they meet again,  with the winner advancing to the regional finals Saturday.

NIACC (71): Baker 1 0-0 3, Wurm 1 0-0 3, Rathjen 1 0-0 2, Trousell 1  8-9 10, Gumm 4 1-6 9, Moss 9 3-3 23, Burnside 4 3-5 11, Taylor-Breck 3  1-2 10. Totals 24 16-25 71.

KIRKWOOD (78): Triplett 4 2-3 10, Harp 3 0-2 8, Wentzien 4 10-12 19,  C.King 5 2-2 13, D.King 9 5-6 23, Jackson 0 0-0 0, Meeker 0 0-0 0,  Fagan 2 0-0 4, Marble 0 1-2 1, Henry 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 20-27 78.

Halftime - Kirkwood 40, NIACC 26. 3-point goals - NIACC 7  (Taylor-Breck 3, Moss 2, Baker 1, Wurm 1), Kirkwood 4 (Harp 2,  Wentzien 1, C.King 1).

 

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