Bluejays fall to Blue Devils
WORTHINGTON -- The Riverland men's basketball team might never watch film again.
Head coach Dan Swift opted not to watch the game tape of Riverland's 89-77 overtime loss to Minnesota West on Jan. 17.
Instead, the Blue Devils focused on playing their game.
The result: a 95-65 victory against host Minnesota West Wednesday night, giving Riverland its first Southern Division victory of the season.
"We actually stopped watching film this week and we just remembered what they ran last time," Swift said. "We wanted to go out and play our game because we haven't seen us play well since about the third game of the year.
"We finally stepped up and played our game."
While Riverland stepped up as a team, sophomore forward Danny DeWitz was in the zone.
Averaging less than 10 points per game this season, DeWitz scored a game-high 24 to lead the Blue Devils.
"I got some layups early and just kind of got into a zone a little bit," DeWitz said. "It just felt good."
"It's the first time we played together as a team and it all just came together for our first win," DeWitz continued. "It's been pretty terrible, so it feels good to finally get one."
Just like the meeting on Jan. 17, the Blue Devils were able to build a first-half lead.
But unlike the game in Austin, Riverland was able to build on that lead in the second half.
"When we got up by 10, we all got after each other at the halftime because when we were in Austin, we were up by eight at halftime," Swift said. "They came back and forced overtime and beat us in overtime, but in all honesty, we finally put it together."
With the loss eliminating the Bluejays from playoff contention, the focus will now be on playing the spoiler role in their next two games.
"We just didn't have a very good effort," MW head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. "We had all kinds of good shots, we just didn't make them. It's a very bad combination when you don't play with effort and don't execute on the offensive end."
Aaron Delaney, who did not score in the first half, scored 16 second-half points to lead MW.
Cory Lesnar scored 12, while Dan Stryzinski (11) and Josh VanDuyn (10) each scored in double figures.
With Riverland's 6-foot-7 forward Spencer Monson in foul trouble most of the game, MW was unable to take advantage inside, and had problems rebounding in the game.
"We got it down low and they did a nice job of not fouling after they got into that foul trouble," Heckenlaible said. "If there would have been about five more minutes in that first half, it might have made a big difference."
Jordan Buddenhagen (six points) hit a trey and VanDuyn scored four points as the Bluejays had an early 7-5 lead.
However, following a trio of free throws from Riverland, DeWitz scored six consecutive points, giving the Blue Devils a 14-9 advantage.
"Danny DeWitz did what Danny DeWitz is supposed to do," Swift said. "But he's kind of been the third or fourth option, because we've had other guys who have had really good seasons so far. I completely expect that out of Danny on any given night.
"That's the nice part. We usually have one guy go off like that, and he did a great job."
Lon Eichenberger answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut the deficit to two points, but a three-point play by AJ Kortz (14 points), and after a shot by Stryzinski, a trey from Brian Voight (14 points) gave Riverland a 20-14 advantage.
The Blue Devils maintained their lead in the first half and had a 37-27 lead at the break.
DeWitz scored the first basket in the second half, and Chris Moragne (15 points) scored five consecutive points, giving Riverland a 44-29 lead. Jason Simmons added a shot, and DeWitz connected on another jumper, increasing the Blue Devil lead.
After a shot by Lesnar, Kortz connected on two consecutive 3-pointers, and after a Moragne put back, Voight hit another trey, pushing the lead to 59-38.
"The scary part about this is that this is what I expected out of our guys all the time," Swift said. "We finally boxed out and attacked the rim. Granted, we got called for six or eight charges in the first half, but that means that we were getting in the lane. We are a really good 3-point shooting team, but we started to rely on it and literally live and die on it. The past eight or nine games, we've died by it."
The Bluejays cut the deficit to 71-54 following Delaney's trey, but DeWitz scored on a pair of layups and a trey as the lead continued to grow.
"We have the capability to play with some great teams, but we haven't put together even 35 minutes of a game," Swift said. "So tonight, we put it together and it was a tough win on the road. It's never easy to play here. For us to come out and get a 'W,' it shows what kind of guys that we have here."
VanDuyn put in two baskets off offensive rebounds late in the game, but DeWitz and Dustin Fritz each hit a 3 in the closing two minutes to push the final margin to 30 points, 95-65.
"They beat us in overtime over there so we knew if we played well we could come out with a win," DeWitz said. "We haven't had one, and we really wanted it."
Wednesday night's game wasn't the way Heckenlaible and the Bluejays were hoping to start their three-game home stand to finish the season.
"(Riverland has) been in most of their games, so it's not like they've been getting beat bad," Heckenlaible said. "Their record looks bad, but they've been in most of their games. (I'm) very disappointed in our effort."
MW will host Fergus Falls Saturday, before Ridgewater comes to town Feb. 21.
"They are home games, and they'll have friends and family come and watch them play," Heckenlaible said. "We just have to hopefully have a little better effort."
Riverland 37 58 -- 95
MW 27 38 -- 65
Riverland (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Moragne 2-3-3-15, Simmons 0-2-3-7, DeWitz 2-9-0-24, Kortz 2-2-4-14, Voight 2-3-2-14, Monson 1-1-1-6, Hahn 1-0-9-12, Fritz 1-0-0-3. Totals 11-20-22-95.
MW (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) VanDuyn 0-5-0-10, Buddenhagen 2-0-0-6, Statz 0-3-1-7, Eichenberger 1-0-0-3, Stryzinski 0-4-3-11, Lesnar 0-5-2-12, Delaney 2-4-2-16. Totals 5-21-8-65.