Bluejays run away from Blue Devils, 113-78
WORTHINGTON -- The last time the Minnesota West men's basketball team eclipsed the century mark as a team was December of 2005.
That is, until Wednesday night.
The Bluejays shot 58 percent from the field to earn their second MCCC Southern Division victory of the season with a 113-78 decision over a depleted Riverland team in a MCCC Southern Division men's basketball game.
"This season, we've been snake bitten more than you could possibly imagine," Riverland head coach Dan Swift said. "You have to give credit. They knew our weakness and attacked our weakness. I'll tell you what, they shot lights out. Sometimes you have to tip your hat when guys are knocking down shots."
Minnesota West (2-8, 6-16) made 44 field goals in the game, including 13 shots from 3-point land.
"Tonight we played with a lot of intensity; it was pretty good," Bluejay Justin Lee said. "It was the last home game for the sophomores, and we've lost a lot of home games. We needed to win to show our fans and other students at school here that we are better than we've come out to be."
For the five sophomores on the team, Wednesday marked the last home game of their careers.
"That was the other part of our motivation tonight -- that we wanted the sophomores to go out with a home victory," Minnesota head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. "We wanted to send them off with a positive feeling, and it was the last time that they'll wear the white uniforms here at home. It's just a really good way for them to go out."
Sophomore Eddie Marrs led all scorers with 30 points, while fellow sophomores Chris Aggen (12 points), Gordy Sanford (15 points) and Lee (11 points) all finished with double figures.
"All the sophomores had double figures, and they all played really well," Heckenlaible said. "I'm very proud of how we've continued to play hard in the last two weeks with our close losses. A lot of credit goes to them for keeping their positive attitude and keep working hard."
Behind a shot from Lee and a dunk from Marrs, the Bluejays opened up an early 9-0 lead on the Blue Devils (0-9, 4-18).
However, Riverland would fight back behind the play of Spencer Monson (19 points) and Edwyn Jensen (22 points) to pull within two points, 22-20.
That would be as close as the Blue Devils would get as the hot shooting of Aaron Delaney (17 points) and a trey from Lon Eichenberger (eight points) gave the Bluejays a 55-42 lead at the break.
Lee and Aggen had nine points in the early going of the second half as MW went on a 17-7 run to open up a 72-49 lead.
Riverland would cut the lead to 14 (74-60), but a pair of shots from Marrs, a trey from Sanford and another dunk from Marrs pushed the lead to 24, 84-60.
"We just did a lot of good things," Heckenlaible said. "We created a lot of stuff with our defense and got some easy baskets. We had a lot of guys playing with a lot of confidence."
Minnesota West continued to push the lead, as Delaney's trey gave the Bluejays 98 points, but it was Aggen's shot in the lane that gave MW the century mark, 100-71.
It was then that the Bluejays started to have some fun. Sanford was on the receiving end of two alley-oops in the final four minutes as Minnesota West went on for a 113-78 victory.
"We played as well as we can with what we have right now," Swift said. "We lost our best player, hands down, the first game of the conference season. He's a guy that's very comparable to Eddie Marrs, he's that level of a player.
"Three of our starters threw up on the way here. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong," Swift added. "One of our other guys got sick halfway through the game."
Minnesota West will finish its season on the road with Fergus Falls Saturday and Ridgewater Feb. 16. It will be after that game that the sophomores will move on from the Bluejay program.
"It's another stepping stone in life," Lee said. "I know basketball is one thing, and it means a lot, but graduating with an education is a whole lot more, and I can't wait until I do that."
Riverland 42 36 -- 78
Minnesota West 55 58 -- 113
Riverland (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Powel 1-0-2-5, Monson 0-7-5-19, Kambaki 0-0-1-1, DeWitz 0-2-2-6, Barthles 2-3-2-14, Kraft 2-1-3-11, Jensen 0-9-4-22. Totals 5-22-19.
MW (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Aggen 0-5-2-12, Sanford 2-4-1-15, Lee 0-5-1-11, Schaefer 1-1-1-7, Marrs 3-10-1-30, Eichenberger 2-0-2-8, Harrell 2-0-0-6, Cameron 0-1-2-4, Delaney 3-4-0-17, Clark 0-1-1-3. Totals 13-31-12-113.