MASON CITY - The rubber match and the regional title went to the No. 2 NIACC women's basketball team.
Top-seeded NIACC stopped No. 4 and second-seeded Kirkwood 77-70 to claim the NJCAA Region XI title Sunday afternoon in the NIACC gym.
NIACC (27-5) and Kirkwood (27-7) split their two regular season games with each team winning by six points on their own home court.
Sunday's regional title game was tied 38-38 at the half but the Lady Trojans outscored the Eagles 19-16 in the third quarter and 20-16 in the fourth quarter to advance to the national tournament for the first time since 2016.
NIACC will be making its ninth appearance at the national tournament. The NJCAA Division II national tournament is set for March 19-23 in Harrison, Ark.
It is the first time since 1994 and third time in school history that NIACC has topped Kirkwood in the regional title game. NIACC topped the Eagles 65-57 in the 1994 title game and downed the Eagles 68-62 in the 1983 regional championship.
"It's really indescribable," said NIACC's Mandy Willems, who was the regional tournament's MVP. "We knew we could do this all year.
"It's really special now that we got to go out there and prove it to everyone."
In Sunday's regional title game, Willems scored 16 points with six rebounds, two assists and one steal. The Lady Trojans, who have won 15 straight games, also received 15 points from Jada Buford and 14 points from Autam Mendez.
Willems connected on three 3-point goals in Sunday's regional title game, which gives her 171 for her career, which ties her with Savannah Lentz, who made 171 from 2014-16.
Also making the all-tournament team for the Lady Trojans were Kelcie Hale, Buford and Mendez. Hale scored eight points with four rebounds, three steals, two blocked shots and one assist.
NIACC also received signicifant contributions off the bench from Ty'neecia Longs, Hallie Reese and Alexa Loftus. Long scored eight points, including two three-point goals in the first half, Reese scored three points and grabbed five rebounds and Loftus hit two 3-point goals.
"Coming into halftime, we just needed to come together as a team," Willems said. "We had to run the offense and lock down on defense. I think we ended up doing that to get the win."
After the clock struck zero, the awards were handed out, one by one, the Lady Trojans took their turn cutting down the net.
"That was really nice," Mendez said. "I didn't get that chance in high school so that was very exciting."
NIACC's 2018-19 season (27-5 overall)
NIACC 95, Illinois Central 89 (OT)
NIACC 104, Bay College 74
NIACC 111, Marshalltown CC 65
NIACC 126, RCTC 86
Trinity Valley CC 78, NIACC 73
Johnson County CC 82, NIACC 74
NIACC 120, Kalamazoo Valley CC 70
NIACC 117, Bryant & Stratton (Wisconsin) 95
NIACC 79, Northeast CC 68
NIACC 113, Southwestern 92
NIACC 77, Bryant & Stratton (Wisconsin) 70
Illinois Central 84, NIACC 77
NIACC 88, Parkland College 76
NIACC 79, Iowa Central 62
Iowa Western 85, NIACC 56
NIACC 110, DMACC 85
Kirkwood 77, NIACC 71
NIACC 102, Southeastern 69
NIACC 116, Little Priest Tribal College 69
NIACC 119, Ellsworth 54
NIACC 99, Iowa Lakes 70
NIACC 107, Southwestern 72
NIACC 74, Iowa Central 63
NIACC 68, Kirkwood 62
NIACC 101, Little Priest Tribal College 66
NIACC 98, Iowa Lakes 74
NIACC 131, Ellsworth 56
NIACC 88, DMACC 78
NIACC 92, Southeastern 61
NJCAA Region XI tournament
NIACC 94, Little Priest Tribal College 56
NIACC 88, Iowa Central 49
NIACC 77, Kirkwood 70
THE LAST TIME NIACC ....
Scored 100 points: 131 vs. Ellsworth (2-27-19)
Had 15 3-point goals: 21 vs. Iowa Central (3-9-19)
Had 50 rebounds: 72 vs. Little Priest Tribal College (3-6-19)
Had 20 assists: 23 vs. Iowa Central (3-9-19)
Had 15 steals: 29 vs. Ellsworth (2-27-19)
Beat a rated team: No. 2 NIACC 77, No. 4 Kirkwood 70 (3-10-19)
THE LAST TIME A LADY TROJAN HAD ...
50 points: 51, Trudy Peterson vs. Kennedy King College (11-21-15)
40 points: 45, Mandy Willems vs. Southeastern (3-2-19)
30 points: 31, Mandy Willems vs. Iowa Central (3-9-19)
10 3-point goals: 13, Mandy Willems vs. Southeastern (3-2-19)
5 3-point goals: 8, Mandy Willems vs. Iowa Central (3-9-19)
10 rebounds: 10, Autam Mendez vs. Southeastern (3-2-19)
15 rebounds: 16, Autam Mendez vs. Little Priest Tribal College (3-6-19)
10 assists: 10, Kelsie Willert vs. DMACC (2-24-18)
10 steals: 11, Jada Buford vs. Marshalltown CC (11-9-18)
5 steals: 6, Autam Mendez vs. DMACC (2-28-19)
10 blocks: 10, Anna Eckert vs. DMACC (3-5-16)
Double/double: Autam Mendez 26 points/16 rebounds vs. Little Priest Tribal College (3-6-19)