Sophomores Zach Lester of Clear Lake and Demarion Bariffe-Smith of Skokie, Ill., scored 19 points apiece to lead the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) men's basketball team to an 82-80 win over North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in the championship game of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XI Division II Men's Basketball Championship March 7 inside the DMACC gymnasium.
Freshman Ryan Schmitt of Van Meter added 12 points as the Bears improved to 29-4 and advanced to the NJCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship for the first time since 2015 when the Bears finished fourth.
DMACC, ranked fifth in the NJCAA Division II poll and the tournament's No. 2 seed, never trailed in beating NIACC for the third time this season. The Bears scored the game's first 14 points and settled for a 52-46 advantage at halftime. NIACC, ranked 12th and seeded fourth, closed to within three points on several occasions in the second half, but got no closer until the final seconds when a pair of free throws by James Harris got the Trojans to within two at 79-77. Lester answered with two free throws to put the Bears up 81-77, but a three-point basket by Trey Sampson made it a one-point game at 81-80.
Freshman Willie Guy of Cedar Rapids made the first of two free throws with just seconds remaining to give DMACC an 82-80 advantage. He missed his second attempt, but Schmitt grabbed the offensive rebounds and maintained possession as time ran out.
DMACC shot 49 percent, hitting 31 of 63 field goal attempts. The Bears were 8-of-22 from three-point range and 12-of-20 from the free throw line. Lester paced DMACC from the field, hitting six of ten shots, including five of eight three-point attempts. Bariffe-Smith was 7-of-13 from the field and Schmitt made six of his eight field goal attempts.
Bariffe-Smith added nine rebounds, lifting the Bears to a 44-36 advantage on the boards. Lester added six rebounds and Guy and topped DMACC in assists with eight and in steals with two. Michael Hartford also added two steals. Schmitt recorded three blocked shots.\
The NJCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship will be held March 17 to 21 at the Mary Miller Center in Danville, Ill. Tournament pairings and seedings will be announced later this week.