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Former Warriors prepare for postseason

Mar. 21—OTTUMWA — They were planning a trip to Kansas just one year earlier.

Hank Plona, Don McHenry and Enoch Kalambay are now on their way to Indianapolis together. They'll be joined on the hardwood on Friday inside Gainsbridge Fieldhouse by J'Vonne Hadley as four former members of the Indian Hills men's basketball program will be competing, potentially against each other, during south region action in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

Plona, after eight successful seasons as head coach at IHCC, has been part of a magical ride to the 'Big Dance' in his first year as an assistant coach under Steve Lutz. McHenry, who like Kalambay followed Plona from Indian Hills to Western Kentucky, led the charge for the Hilltoppers on the court to the Conference USA Tournament title securing the program's first conference championship since winning the Sun Belt title in 2013.

McHenry was named the Most Valuable Player of the Conference USA Tournament, scoring 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting with four steals helping third-seeded Western Kentucky beat UTEP 78-71 Saturday night and win the Conference USA Tournament for the first time in program history. McHenry made a layup and hit a jumper before Enoch Kalambay made 1-of-2 free throws to push Western Kentucky's lead the 10 with about five minutes to go.

Western Kentucky will play in the first of four NCAA tournament games on Friday on the home court of the Indiana Pacers and, in all likelihood, the future home floor of Iowa women's basketball superstar Caitlin Clark provided the All-American is drafted No. 1 later this year by the WNBA's Indiana Fever. The Hilltoppers take on second-seeded Marquette at 1 p.m.

Should Western Kentucky pull off the upset against the Golden Eagles, it could set up a showdown between former IHCC players on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Following Western Kentucky and Marquette, another former Warrior standout will be on the floor as J'Vonne Hadley looks to help the Colorado Buffaloes advance past Florida in the second game of the day in Indianapolis.

Hadley, the 2021-22 Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year playing for Indian Hills, hit two late free throws on Wednesday night in Colorado's 60-53 win over Boise State in the 'First Four' of the NCAA Tournament. Hadley was recently named Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 17.5 point and 9.5 rebounds per game helping the Buffaloes play their way into the NCAAs by making a run to the finals of the Pac 12 Tournament.

McHenry, who followed Hadley as the 2022-23 ICCAC Player of the Year at Indian Hills last season, has also earned All-Conference USA First Team honors for Western Kentucky as was an NABC Division I All-District 11 First Team selection. Kalambay, who last spring became just the fourth Indian Hills player to score 30 points in an NJCAA National Tournament game with a 31-point effort in a quarterfinal win over Odessa, helped the Hilltoppers advance to play for the Conference USA title last week scoring 12 points in a quarterfinal-round win and grabbing a season-high nine rebounds in the tournament semifinals last Friday.

Plona, McHenry and Kalambay are not the only former IHCC player-coach combination in this year's NCAA Tournament. The Iowa State Cyclones open play in Omaha against South Dakota State with former Warrior standout Curtis Jones producing 10.5 points a game in his first season for the Cyclones while Nate Schmidt, a former assistant coach under Plona at IHCC from 2014-17, serving as an assistant coach under head coach T.J. Otzelberger as Iowa State enters the NCAA Tournament seeded second in the East Region fresh off a run to the Big 12 Tournament title last weekend.

Of all the stories entering March Madness this season, former Indian Hills All-American standout Tyon Grant-Foster might be one of the best stories. Grant-Foster's career appeared in jeopardy after he collapsed twice, once in the locker room while playing for DePaul and another time while playing a pickup game at a community center gym.

Grant-Foster had to be resuscitated after the incident in DePaul. Now Grant-Foster is thriving with Grand Canyon as the Western Athletic Conference player of the year averaging 19.8 points and six rebounds per game.

Grant-Foster will be yet another former Indian Hills standout that will be on the court Friday during the NCAA Tournament. Grand Canyon, seeded 12th in the West Region, will open against West Coast Conference tournament champion Saint Mary's in Spokane, Washington.