Mens basketball: Second half shots help Jays to key victory
WORTHINGTON — Combining a game-long stellar inside defensive effort with a sizzling second-half offensive performance Sunday afternoon, the Bluejays of Minnesota West Community and Technical College remained undefeated in Southern Division men’s basketball action with a well-earned 83-77 victory over a highly-regarded Anoka-Ramsey squad.
Playing in front of a nice-sized crowd at the new Center for Health and Wellness on the MW campus, the Bluejays effectively stifled the scoring and rebounding of A-R’s Joey Weldon throughout the aggressively-played contest, holding him to a mere six points and five rebounds.
Weldon, a 6-6 freshman center from St. Paul, entered the game averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds per game.
In foul trouble early, Weldon played just 14 minutes and 55 seconds of Sunday’s game and was not much of a factor.
“We were able to draw a couple of fouls on him early,” exclaimed MW head coach Justin Heckenlaible about the Bluejays’ success against Weldon. “Then, when he was in there, we just did a great job with our zone defense of containing him and boxing him out.”
After an evenly-played first half which saw five lead changes and four ties, West snapped the contest open over the first 4:10 of the second half, getting a trio of consecutive three-pointers from sophomore forward Cody Harris, capping a 13-6 burst which changed a 31-31 tie into a 44-37 lead.
The Bluejays (13-4, 4-0) never trailed again.
Ranked seventh in the country in NJCAA Division III, the Rams (14-4, 2-2) stayed close, but were not able to regain the lead.
“We had some nice runs in the second half,” Heckenlaible said after the game. “We executed our game plan so well, which is very satisfying. We protected our home court and earned a big win over a good team. I am so proud of our guys for how well they communicated and worked together on both ends of the floor.”
While Harris connected on his fourth trey of the second half a few minutes later and sophomore guard Jackson Seitzinger cleared himself for a three-pointer, two key Bluejay baskets in West’s ensuing 16-11 run were inside hoops from Taylor Lupton (nifty spin move after taking a sharp assist pass from Ja’Pree Murry) and Blake Fischer (assist pass from Jordan Thomas after excellent ball movement by the Bluejays).
Derek Buysse (assist Cyril Hodges) also drilled an open three-pointer during that sequence of action, which changed a 44-40 advantage into a 60-51 lead, capped by an elevated jumper from Thomas with 9:57 remaining.
The Rams sliced the lead to four, 60-56, but again the Bluejays spurted with a basket by Harris, two free throws by Seitzinger, two from the line by Thomas (after Fischer and Seitzinger made hustle plays to keep a West possession alive) and a two-point field goal by Buysse.
With 5:59 on the clock, West held a 68-56 lead.
Fourty-four second seconds later, MW took its biggest lead of the game when Seitzinger swung the ball to Thomas at the top of the key and the 6-3 sophomore from Sioux City, Iowa buried a three-pointer, moving the score to 71-58.
The Rams, spearheaded by the late-game scoring of sophomore guard Lemuel Doe (29 points, 10 defensive rebounds) came within four points several times in the closing minutes, but the Bluejays maintained the lead.
Harris found Fischer wide open on the press break for a 74-63 advantage at the 2:31 mark.
A four-point play by Doe sliced the gap to seven and the Rams later came within four, 75-71, when Joe Lyons dished to Anthony Brama for a hoop.
Single free throws by Hodges and Lupton increased the MW edge to six, 77-71, with 43 seconds left.
A-R’s Trent Pollard and Seitzinger exchanged a pair from the line and with 31 seconds remaining, the Bluejays were leading 79-73.
Doe was fouled and sank two free throws, before Seitzinger drained two more from the line, keeping the advantage at six.
Pollard scored on a drive, again trimming the lead to four, 81-77, with 12.6 seconds on the clock.
Thomas and Harris each made a free throw in the final seconds, after rebounding missed shots by the Rams.
Harris, Seitzinger and Thomas scored 22, 19 and 17 points, respectively for the Bluejays, who made seven-of-14 three-point shot attempts after intermission. Harris scored 15 of his points in the second half.
Harris (nine), Buysse (eight) and Fischer (six) helped West to a 42-40 rebounding edge. Seitzinger, who was eight-of-10 at the line, dished off four assists for West.
For the game, the Bluejays shot 43.3 percent from the field (26-of-60), including nine-of-19 from behind the arc (47.4 percent). Meanwhile, the Rams were 23-of-56 overall (41.1 percent), but shot only 33.3 percent on three-pointers (nine-of-27).
A-R missed 18 free throws in the game, netting 22-of-40, while West was 22-of-34.
The Bluejays travel to St. Cloud Wednesday for a clash with a St. Cloud Tech squad which is 15-1 overall this season.
Anoka-Ramsey 31 77
M. West 31 83
ANOKA-RAMSEY (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Doe 5-3-8-29, Brama 1-1-0-5, Pollard 0-3-8-14, Lyons 3-1-2-13, Kpahn 0-4-0-8, Weldon 0-2-2-6, Johnson 0-0-2-2. Totals 9-14-22-77.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hodges 0-1-1-3, Bell 0-0-2-2, Thomas 3-2-4-17, Seitzinger 1-4-8-19, Buysse 1-2-1-8, Fischer 0-3-2-8, Lupton 0-1-2-4, Harris 4-4-2-22. Totals 9-17-22-83.