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MW BASKETBALL: Bluejays sneak into playoffs with win over Riverland

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West men's basketball team qualified for the NJCAA Region 13 Tournament after defeating Riverland 90-74 on Sunday.

Minnesota West (13-13 overall, 6-8 Minnesota College Athletic Conference), which was fourth in the Southern Division, will play Vermilion (24-2, 12-1), which placed first in the Northern Division, in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Friday at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

"We kept taking advantage of our chances," Bluejays head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. "I was very proud of our players because we played hard and we made big shots --three or four of them came at the end of the shot clock and we had a couple tip-in's. We made our free throws, we rebounded the ball and we got some stops on defense. That is usually the difference in winning games."

But before Minnesota West could make postseason plans, it had to knock off Riverland (12-15, 5-7 MCAC Southern) on Sunday. The Bluejays received help Saturday from Minnesota State-Fergus Falls, which defeated Ridgewater 83-76.

Minnesota West won the head-to-head tiebreaker against Ridgewater after besting the Warriors twice this season.

"It was a dramatic finish for us because we had chances to clinch our playoff spot earlier," said sophomore Orie Brown, who scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Bluejays past the Blue Devils on Sunday. "Even though we made it hard on ourselves, we still pulled through and made the playoffs."

Brown capitalized on a 9 of 16 effort from the field and a 7 of 9 performance at the free-throw line as Minnesota West shot 46 percent (31 of 67) from the field and 85 percent (17 of 20) from the free-throw line.

The Bluejays' Tyler Aquallo added 26 points on 8 of 15 shooting from the field, including a 6 of 10 effort from 3-point range. He made all four of his free-throw attempts.

Minnesota West took a 48-35 lead after 20 minutes and controlled the second half with a 42-39 advantage.

Three more Bluejays scored in double figures. Mitch Hopkins posted 13 points and nine rebounds, Luke Roddy added 12 points and seven assists and Jackson Seitzinger generated 10 points and four assists.

Marcus Ratliff and Guillermo DeDiego both led the Blue Devils with 21 points. Andrew Lau (14 points) and Zach Bunch (10 points) also reached double figures.

Minnesota West took good care of the ball with only nine turnovers. The Bluejays' defense forced 14. MW also won the rebounding battle 39-36.


Minnesota West 86,

Riverland 60

WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota West forced a MCAC Southern Division first-place tie after defeating Riverland on Sunday at Worthington High School.

The Lady Jays (19-6, 10-2) ended the regular season knotted with Anoka-Ramsey (20-5, 10-2), which lost 73-71 to Western Tech on Saturday.

Minnesota West split its pair of MCAC Southern Division games against Anoka-Ramsey this season. According to Lady Jays head coach Mike Fury, further tiebreaking are need before a team is awarded the division title and the No. 1 seed in the NJCAA Region 13 Tournament.

"I don't know how it's going to turn out," Fury said. "We still have to wait and see because of the tiebreaking things that have to happen yet. We should know more (today)."

On Sunday, Tiffany Gehl went 13 of 25 from the field and 9 of 12 at the free-throw line to produce a game-high 38 points in the Lady Jays' victory.

Minnesota West's Lindsey Drooger contributed 24 points on 8 of 23 shooting from the field and 4 of 6 shooting at the free-throw line.

The Lady Jays won their eighth consecutive game by building a 39-24 halftime lead before outscoring the Blue Devils 47-36 in the second half.

Katey Granstra collected a double-double of 17 rebounds and 13 points for Minnesota West, which took the rebounding battle 56-50.

Brittany Hulstein set up her Lady Jays' teammates with seven assists. Granstra added six more helpers.

"We had another strong start by taking a 14-2 lead early in the first half. That was huge," Fury said. "We played pretty steady after that. (Riverland) didn't make a big run at us and we didn't let them."

Fury is happy with Minnesota West's effort, especially over its final eight MCAC Southern Division games.

"We're playing pretty well, heading into tournament time," Fury said.

Skylar Anderson (15), Rebekah Aase (12) and Sophia Hebrink (10) were Riverland's leading point-scorers.