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College basketball: Minnesota West men hold on for first win

Minnesota West men's basketball players celebrate a clutch shot near the end of Monday's college basketball game against Northeastern. The Bluejays held on to win their first game of the season. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)1 / 2
Lady Jay Emily Haubrich balances a shot Monday night in college women's basketball action against Northwestern JV. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- They’ve been in these situations before, and lost.

But this time, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College men’s basketball team saw a lead disappear late, and they grabbed it back, topping Northeast Community College of Norfolk, Neb., 73-70, Monday night in Worthington.

The win pushed the team’s record to 1-3 on the season and -- though it’s still early in the 2017-18 campaign -- it felt as though the Bluejays were turning a corner.

In the early game of the doubleheader, the Minnesota West Lady Jays lost their first game of the season in a rematch against Northwestern JV. The women defeated the Red Raiders in a tight game in the season opener at Worthington, but on Monday the Red Raiders prevailed, 71-65.

Bluejays 73, Northeast 70

Difficulty against zone coverages has hampered the Bluejays early, but when the Northeast Hawks fell into a zone late on Monday, the Bluejays knew what to do.

“It was just taking care of the ball, trying not to turn it over,” said first-year head coach Aaron Poor Bear.

The Bluejays lost their season opener to the zone, attempting to dribble through it instead of passing the ball. Freshman guard Alex Brown, who made a big 3-point shot with 1:49 to go Monday to keep his team close after it lost the lead, said the Jays are learning to move the ball against the zone, and to get it to the high post.

“Every day we’re getting better in practice. Those first three games taught us a lot. We could be 3-1 right now instead of 1-3,” he said.

Minnesota West led Northeast 39-29 at halftime but surrendered the lead 63-61 after two Jeremiah Coddon free throws with 3:09 remaining. With two minutes to go, the Hawks led by four.

Brown’s 3-pointer with 1:49 to go -- following a rebound of a DeShawn Pickford missed free throw -- got the Bluejays within a point at 65-64. Just 38.9 seconds remained when another Brown 3-pointer let West re-take the lead.

At :26, Northeast’s Melkisedek Moreaux made one of two free throws to trim the margin to 69-68, but West’s Alex Preston was fouled with 20.9 seconds to go. He made both ends of a 1-and-1 situation. Northeast missed a 3-pointer, Brown grabbed the rebound and made both ends of his 1-and-1 for a 73-68 advantage with 11.8 seconds to go.

Brown, a Sioux Falls, S.D., product who finished with a game-high 23 points, chalked up the win to communication.

“We communicated out there. Talked. Focused on our rotations, and we focused on our energy,” he said.

Said Poor Bear, “They outsized us almost at every position. I give the guys credit, they played hard.”

Minnesota West will find itself out-sized in most games they play this season. They were out-rebounded 48-38 on Monday, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“Gang rebounding. Everybody has to get in there when you’re smaller than everybody,” Brown said.

The Jays also use their speed well by pushing the ball up the floor quickly.

“If we run our offense, we always get a good look,” Poor Bear said.

The loss moved Northeast to 4-3.

Northeast 29 70

Bluejays 39 73

NORTHEAST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Wooten 0-3-0-6, Byekwaso 1-0-0-3, Anderson 2-1-2-10, Sanders 1-4-0-11, Coddon 3-3-3-18, Sakinis 0-1-0-2, Moreaux 0-5-2-12, Kur 0-4-0-8. Totals 7-21-7-70.

BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Chol 1-3-0-9, Carter 0-0-0-0, Pickford 0-2-0-4, Hudson 0-2-0-4, Ojulu 0-1-0-2, Preston 3-3-2-17, Brown 4-3-5-23, Snelling 0-0-0-0, Syph 0-3-0-6, Arroyo 0-3-2-8. Totals 8-20-9-73.

Northwestern 71, Lady Jays 65

The Red Raiders let one slip away 10 days earlier in the Sanford Classic. They weren’t about to let it happen a second time.

Good ball movement, tough work under the basket on both sides of the floor, and an 8-for-20 3-point shooting effort, was enough to give Minnesota West its first setback of the young 2017-18 campaign.

It didn’t help that the Lady Jays seemed a bit sluggish.

In all four games this season, said West head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, the Jays have “struggled for continuity on offense.” They were still able to win their third straight game on the road on Saturday -- a 70-63 triumph over Iowa Lakes in a game where Andrea Hinkeldey scored 23 points with seven rebounds, and Katherin Ihnen had nine points and 17 rebounds -- but on Monday they were outrebounded 43-32.

Northwestern JV led at every quarter stop -- 22-13 after the first quarter, 42-32 at halftime and 57-52 after three quarters. Minnesota West made some runs to pull close, but the Red Raiders always had an answer.

“Every time we made a run at ‘em, they made a big shot,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “At times I think we got caught flat-footed.”

Rachel Mercer led Northwestern with 20 points.

Five Minnesota West players reached double figures. Avery Van Roekel led with 15 points. Ihnen and Emily Haubrich had 13 apiece. Hinkeldey and Ashlynn Wabeke each scored 10.

Van Roekel, a freshman from Beaver Creek, and Haubrich, a sophomore from Carroll, Iowa, fought like wildcats. Van Roekel threw herself into the fray around the basket passionately in the second half. And Haubrich came up with some big steals and points late in the game. But it wasn’t enough to bring the Lady Jays back after Northwestern assumed a 69-63 lead on a 16-footer by Erika Sage with 1:30 to go.

Northwestern JV 22 42 57 71

Lady Jays 13 32 52 65

NORTHWESTERN JV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Sage 3-3-1-16, Hunwardsen 2-0-0-6, Sattler 0-1-0-2, Keck 1-1-1-6, Maass 0-0-1-1, Mercer 4-2-4-20, Kruse 0-4-4-12, Anderson 0-3-2-8. Totals 8-16-15-71.

LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Mike 0-2-0-4, Haubrich 2-2-3-13, Stanley 0-0-0-0, Woelber 0-0-0-0, Hinkeldey 0-5-0-10, Wabeke 1-2-3-10, Van Roekel 0-6-3-15, Ihnen 0-4-5-13. Totals 3-21-14-65.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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