WORTHINGTON -- Forty minutes wasn't enough to decide Sunday’s Region XIIIA Championship.
One overtime didn’t do it either.
In an epic, two-overtime thriller, Rochester Community and Technical College defeated Minnesota West 88-84 to win the region and advance to the NJCAA women’s basketball National Tournament.
“Maybe in about 25 years the sting of that one will go away, but I’m not sure,” MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka said. “The biggest thing I said I don’t think a single one of those kids can look in the mirror and say they didn’t play their heart out. We missed some shots, we missed some opportunities, but effort-wise, you can’t ask for more. We were dead. We were absolutely dead. They left it on the floor. They just hit a few more shots than we did.”
West had a second-half lead, but needed a shot in the final second of regulation and a free throw with .3 seconds remaining in overtime to keep the game going.
“It’s like two heavyweight boxers going at it,” RCTC head coach Steve Hucke said while his team was cutting down the nets at the Center for Health and Wellness. “Minnesota West has a great team. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We could have very easily been on the other end of this as well. We had three great battles with them all season. They played their hearts out. I can’t take anything away. We played well when we had to, they played well when they had to, it was just one of those things. It was a great game.”
But in the end, the Yellowjackets outscored the Lady Jays 14-10 in the second overtime to advance.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” MW sophomore Katherin Ihnen said, who added she’s never experienced a game like it. “It felt like never ending. Every time we’d come back, we thought, ‘This is it.’ Things didn’t go our way, but we don’t have anything to hang our heads for. This loss will hurt for a while, but nothing will compare to the season that we’ve had and some of the history that we’ve made.”
West had beaten Rochester twice already this season, including a week ago to secure home court for the region tournament.
“I think the hardest part for us is that it’s always hard to beat a team three times who is really good and they are a good team,” MW sophomore Andrea Hinkeldey said. “We’re a good team. Going back and forth, it’s going to be hard. But I think the hardest part for us right now is we were at the same spot last year and having a season with only one loss going in knowing this is the team that if it's’ going to happen, it’s going to happen. Having hosted regionals for the first time in 20 years almost and having home court, we had a lot of fans here who were expecting us to be able to pull it out. We had our ups and downs, they had their ups and downs. It just came down to every single play mattered. That’s the hardest part for us is knowing as a team we’re done.”
With West leading 50-43 to start the fourth quarter, RCTC answered with a 12-2 run behind nine points from Nautika Kotero. MW came back, and after a 3 from Ashlynn Wabeke (13 points), took a 63-59 advantage. However, Jalysa Cutting scored six points for the Yellowjackets to give them a 65-63 lead with 8.8 seconds remaining.
As the clock ticked away, Ihnen (20 points) collected a missed West shot and put it back through with 1.4 seconds remaining as the game went into the first overtime.
“That’s the reason why they are the division champs,” Hucke said. “They always found a way to get themselves in a position to win the ballgame. I’m just proud of the girls. It could have very easily gone the other way. It’s tough to come back after you play that long. To have a lead and give up a lead and take a lead, that’s the way a championship game is supposed to be.”
In the first overtime, Hinkeldey (16 points) scored right away, but RCTC answered with six points to lead by four. The next six went to MW as Ihnen, M’Kayla Mike (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Hinkeldey scored. After a jumper by Rochester’s Grace Riley, teammate Olivia Haug (17 points, 18 rebounds) hit a free throw with 8.4 left that gave her team a 74-73 lead.
“It was a lot of pressure, obviously, built up,” Ihnen said. “We’ve never had close games the whole season, so when we do get in close games, we don’t really know what we to do. We battled.”
On West’s next possession, Ihnen was fouled with .3 seconds showing on the clock. Her made foul shot sent the game into a second overtime.
“That’s how it should be,” Hayenga-Hostikka said of the second overtime. “What a crowd. It just hurts. That one will hurt for a long time. We have a great group of sophomores. They had two amazing years here and I said they have a lot to be proud of, no one can take away the division championship and all the things they did. It’s just a tough one.”
The Lady Jays played from behind much of the second overtime as a jumper from RCTC’s Abby Bauer gave them an 85-82 lead.
“It’s a different change of pace of game,” Hinkeldey said. “Every possession counts. You can’t worry about the score, you have to worry about leaving everything out there on the floor. And I think we did that. There’s things we could have changed, but all in all, I think we left everything out there we should have.”
Emily Haubrich (19 points, six assists) made a pair of foul shots with 17.6 seconds remaining to bring West within one, but Kotero (game-high 27 points) answered with two on the other end to lead by three with 14.9 left. Minnesota West’s 3-point attempt was off the mark, as the Yellowjackets outlasted the Lady Jays.
“I’m incredibly proud of them,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “They don’t care who is proud of them right now, it hurts too bad. They’ll get a little ways away from it and look back and they have a lot to be proud of.”
Ihnen found herself in foul trouble early in Sunday’s game, as she picked up three fouls in the first quarter and didn’t play in the final 14 minutes of the first half.
“I was so frustrated, I honestly didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I’ve never been in a situation like that and I hung my head for a little bit and I said, ‘You know what, the team needs me on the bench as much as they do on the court.’”
Even with their leading scorer on the bench, the Lady Jays led 15-13 at the end of the first quarter and 28-27 at halftime.
Out of the break, the Yellowjackets took a lead and with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter, led 40-35. But the Jays had the answer as they finished the quarter on a 15-3 run to lead 50-43 entering the fourth quarter and setting up the wild finish.Rochester 13 27 43 65 74 88 Lady Jays 15 28 50 65 74 84 ROCHESTER (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Cutting 1-2-1-8, Wangen 0-0-1-1, Riley 1-5-3-16, Kotero 3-8-2-27, Grant 1-0-0-3, Gardner 1-1-0-5, Bauer 1-4-0-11, Haug 0-7-3-17. Totals 8-27-10-88. LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Mike 1-2-7-14, Haubrich 1-5-6-19, Stanley 0-1-0-2, Hinkeldey 0-8-0-16, Wabeke 3-1-2-13, Ihnen 0-8-4-20. Totals 5-25-19-84.