COUNCIL BLUFFS — No. 18 Iowa Western's regular season is over.
The Reivers will forfeit their final two games, and a chance to earn at least a share of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference title, after all players were suspended Wednesday following a bench-clearing altercation in the final seconds of Tuesday's home game with Moberly Area (Mo.) Community College.
No punches appeared to be thrown. However, leaving the bench area and the on-court shoving that did occur at Kanesville Arena were violations of NJCAA sportsmanship policy.
Iowa Western had games left against the ICCAC co-leaders, No. 1 Indian Hills and No. 19 Southeastern. The Reivers (23-5) were to face the Warriors at home on Saturday before heading to Southeastern next weekend. At 4-2 in league play, they were a game behind both.
Now, IWCC will finish third and have the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Region XI tournament. The Reivers won't play again until the semifinal round of the tourney, as the No. 2 seed, on Feb. 26.
The suspensions were handed down by the NJCAA and the Reivers' conference.
“All players were involved in the altercation,” IWCC Athletic Director Brenda Hampton said. “Therefore, all players have to follow the rule, which is a two-game suspension.
“We're following the policy, and it's the right ruling.”
Hampton said the NJCAA indicated that Moberly would also be forfeiting its next two games.
Reiver coach Jim Morris said he hasn't had a team involved in suspensions of this magnitude in his 37 years of coaching, which includes 22 years as a collegiate head coach. He was not surprised, nor did he disagree, with the punishment levied on Wednesday.
“The players have to learn, and I thought the consequences were probably appropriate,” he said. “Our players knew that you're not supposed to be going on the floor, and that there would be punishment for it. They chose to do it the other way.”
The incident appeared to begin when a player from each team bumped chests following a foul with 11.6 seconds left. Morris and Hampton both said they were grateful the incident ended quickly and didn't escalate into something much worse. The officials halted the game at that point, giving Iowa Western a 95-92 victory in a contest destined for a wild finish.
The Reivers now won't have another for two weeks. And Morris must figure out how to prepare his players to return to action in a one-and-done playoff following a long layoff.
“We'll probably just do individual stuff for part of it, practice as a team later on and keep them in shape by running them,” he said. “It's just hard to practice for two weeks with no game, especially at this time of the season. But it is what it is. We'll have to figure it out.”