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Lady Jays can't hold halftime lead in loss

WORTHINGTON -- With an eight-point lead at halftime, the Minnesota West Lady Jays nearly came away with a victory in its first Southern Division women's basketball game over Anoka-Ramsey Wednesday.

However, the defending National Champions were too much for MW in a 71-55 victory for the Golden Rams (14-1).

"I thought we played a little bit better the second half, obviously," Anoka-Ramsey head coach Dave DeWitt said. "I thought we did a better job rebounding in the second half, and defensively, we got a little tougher."

After controlling the ball in the first half, the Lady Jays (7-7) were unable to handle the pressure defense applied by A-R, as West committed 25 turnovers in the contest.

"That's the bottom line against these guys -- if you can handle the pressure you'll be OK, and we just didn't," Minnesota West head coach Mike Fury said.

Defensively, Minnesota West was able to keep Sonja Ellingson in check in the first half, as the All-American scored just seven points.

However, the sophomore forward scored 21 second half points, including a stretch of 14 of her team's 19 in a critical stretch in the final minutes.

"She struggled a little in the first half, but she stepped up big in the second half and played like an All-American should," DeWitt said.

Both teams traded points to open the game as neither team was able to open up a lead larger than six points.

Trailing by three points, 21-18, Minnesota West took its first timeout of the game with 5:11 remaining in the first half.

Out of the timeout, Ashley Neperman (five points) hit two free throws and followed with a trey as West took the lead.

Ashlee Domine (six points) and Rosie Lewis (10 points, 14 rebounds) each hit a shot as the Lady Jays were off and running.

West capped off a 15-2 run with a layup from Ashley Kirk (18 points, 10 rebounds) as the Lady Jays had a 35-27 advantage at the break.

"They just exploded, and that's what they are capable of doing," DeWitt said. "They erupted, and they used their tremendous shooters."

Out of the break, the Lady Jays continued to build their lead.

A trey from Stacy Bush pushed the lead to 12 points early in the second half, but the Golden Rams came roaring back.

Following a pair of turnovers, A-R went on a 13-1 run to turn a deficit into a tied ballgame.

"It was a nice first half," Fury said. "We had an eight point lead at halftime, and we played very well. But we were taking care of the ball. Just like we said, those two turnovers and momentum switched, and away they went."

Following a jump shot by A-R's Jessica Cichy (23 points, nine rebounds), the game was tied at 53-all.

From then on, West scored just two more points in the game, while A-R scored 18 to take the 71-55 victory.

"I think we did probably wear them down a little bit," DeWitt said. "But we played with basically five kids in the second half, too, so we were getting a little tired, too."

A-R had 21 steals as a team and was led defensively by Amanda Reh (12 points) with six steals.

"We were up 12 on those guys, and we had a couple of turnovers, and the momentum switched. It switched hard and fast," Fury said. "They are a good team."

West shot 34 percent from the floor in the first half, but made just six field goals in the second half (six-of-30), while A-R was 18-of-42 (43 percent) from the field in the second frame.

The Lady Jays did have an advantage in rebounding, holding a 55-46 advantage, including a 27-20 lead on the offensive glass.

Minnesota West will host Minneapolis in another Southern Division contest Saturday.

MW 35 20 -- 55

A-R 27 44 -- 71

MW (3PT-2PT-FT-TP) Neperman 1-0-2-5, Domine 0-2-2-6 Bush 1-0-0-3, Lewis 0-5-0-10, Kirk 2-3-6-18, Vaske 0-4-0-8, Mischke 0-1-3-5. Totals 4-15-13-55.

A-R (3PT-2PT-FT-TP) Washington 0-1-0-2, Roline 0-1-0-2, Olson 0-0-1-1, Reh 0-5-2-12, Hambleton 1-0-0-3, Cichy 1-9-2-23, Ellingson 3-8-3-28. Totals 5-24-8-71.