MW MEN'S BASKETBALL: Riverland uses big second-half run in 83-78 victory over MW in season finaleWORTHINGTON — Myler Neal was putting on the Minnesota West jersey for the final time.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Myler Neal was putting on the Minnesota West jersey for the final time.
And he wanted to go out with a win in Saturday’s Minnesota West men’s basketball game.
“It was real tough, I wanted to end my community college career on a good note, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be,” Neal said following the Bluejays’ 83-78 loss to Riverland.
Neal scored 16 points for the Bluejays, but a big second-half run sent the Blue Devils to the Southern Division victory.
“We couldn’t break completely away,” Neal said. “We would get up by a little bit and we would let them come back. We could never put them completely out of the game. Unfortunately, that was our downfall.”
Neal was the only player returning from a year ago.
“Myler was kind of like a lot of our freshmen last year and this year he really matured and he really got a lot better,” MW head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. “That’s a big key, the guys come back that second year and they understand what’s going on, so I appreciate Myler and all his efforts the last two years.
“With Deshawn (Lawrence), he was a great kid in practice and worked hard all the time.”
With the score tied at 38-all in the second half, the Bluejays went on a 15-0 run. Devantray Heard sparked the run with a jumper and Mitch Olson followed with a three-point play as MW was off and running.
“We just all came together and started pressing them and they couldn’t handle the press,” Neal said. “We just tried to stick with it.”
Luke Roddy (15 points) hit a shot — forcing a Riverland timeout.
Neal made a shot out of the timeout and Corey Lewis (13 points) converted on an offensive rebound, pushing the lead to 49-38.
Roddy made a couple free throws and Lewis made another shot, pushing the MW advantage to 53-38 — the biggest lead of the game.
“That’s our basketball; when we play good, we kill teams,” MW’s Mitch Hopkins said. “When we get on teams with these 15-0 runs, that’s when our actual true talent comes out. We’re aggressive, we’re athletic, we play good defense and we’re talking. We’re playing the perfect game that we can play.”
But the Blue Devils weren’t going quietly. In fact, they had a run left in them.
“Their coach called the press at the right time,” Neal said. “We weren’t expecting it and people weren’t in position the first couple of times.”
The Riverland press wreaked havoc on the Bluejays as the visiting team answered with a 14-0 run.
“You’re thinking to yourself, ‘What do we do?’” Hopkins said. “It seems to be an ongoing problem all year where we’d go on runs and then we’d seem to lose it. It’s almost like a helpless feeling.”
That run would continue, and before MW could stop the bleeding, Riverland had put the finishing touches on a 24-3 run.
Riverland built as much as a 10-point lead (72-62) before MW rallied to tie the game at 77-all after a Hopkins (16 points) offensive rebound.
Cody Meyer made a shot and hit a free throw in the final minute before Neal made a free throw, but the Bluejays couldn’t overcome the deficit in a five-point loss.
With a large number of freshmen, the Bluejays (10-15, 4-8) return most of their team next season.
“Everyone this year got that experience and when you bring that back next year, now you know what to look for,” Hopkins said. “We had a lot of teams that were old this season, so we’re going to be the old team next year and hopefully we can be on top of the conference next year.”
Riverland 27 56 — 83
MN West 30 48 — 78
Riverland (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Barry 0-1-0-2, Osberg 1-8-2-21, Bunch 0-4-5-13, Thames 1-0-0-3, Smith 1-4-5-16, Ratliff 2-1-2-10, Morgan 0-1-2-4, Meyer 0-2-7-11. Totals 6-21-23-83.
Minnesota West (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Roddy 3-1-4-15, Green 0-2-0-4, Hopkins 0-6-4-16, Heard 0-1-0-2, Olson 0-3-1-7, Lewis 0-5-3-13, Sabastiano 0-2-1-5, Neal 0-5-6-16. Totals 3-25-19-78.
Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen can be reached at 376-7323.