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Iowa History Daily: March 20 - Panthers Pounce on NJCAA Title

Iowa History Daily: On March 20, 1971, Ellsworth Community College claimed the NJCAA basketball championship with an upset of no.1-ranked Southern Idaho 80-71. Part of a 17-game win streak to close out a 26-7 season, the title represented the first won by an Iowa community college men’s basketball program.

Coach Jim Carey, a former assistant of Drake and Iowa State legendary coach Maury John, arrived in Iowa Falls after helping guide Moberly Community College to two national championships. Led by dominant 6’7” scorer Benny Clyde, Ellsworth gained momentum as the postseason began. In the Iowa Community College tournament, the Panthers punched their ticket to nationals with a 130-77 win over Kirkwood.

In the national tournament, Ellsworth beat up on Bismarck State College 101-67 to move to finals against the top-ranked team from Southern Idaho. Benny Clyde led the Panthers captured MVP honors for the national tournament after putting up 26 points and 27 rebounds in the championship game. 

“It’s really something to say that we’re bringing the national title back to Iowa,” Coach Carey said. “Just think, that great big, beautiful trophy is going to be sitting up in Iowa Falls.” Although the 5,000 fans in Iowa Falls had to wait to get a glimpse of the trophy because the bus broke down, the season stands as an all-timer in Iowa sports lore. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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