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College basketball: Stellar second half lifts Lady Jays

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Shooting a sparkling 79 percent from the free throw line Saturday afternoon and winning the second half by a commanding 35-23 margin, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Lady Jays claimed a key 69-51 Southern Division victory — at the new Center for Health and Wellness — over a good squad representing Western Tech of LaCrosse, Wis.

The visiting Cavaliers, who have won nine games this season, gave the Lady Jays plenty of challenges — on both ends of the court —throughout an evenly-played first half.

But, a 16-4 run by the West women over the first 7:07 of the second half changed a slim 34-28 lead into a convincing 50-32 advantage.

From there, the Lady Jays maintained at least a 13-point edge the rest of the contest and won their 12th game of the season, improving to 12-3 overall and 2-0 in division action.

“This was a nice win against a good team,” summed up MW head coach Mike Fury. “Tech plays very good man-to-man defense, and we had to work hard and do things right on offense. We also needed to play good defense ourselves, which we really did in those opening minutes of the second half when we opened up the lead.”

It was West’s fifth consecutive win of the campaign, coming on the heels of four straight one-sided victories.

The Cavaliers (9-5, 0-2) effectively put the clamps on the Jays several times in the first half, keeping the score low and close.

Sophomore forward Lindsey Drooger (Edgerton) sparked West early with a three-pointer, a pair of assists and a shot block, helping MW claim a 15-10 lead midway through.

Tech countered with an 11-6 run to tie the score at 21-all with 4:57 remaining.

A three-pointer from the right corner —- off an inbounds play —- by freshman Lydia Kemper (Worthington), two free throws each from sophomore Tiffany Gehl (Fulda) and freshman Bridget Kramer (Ellsworth) were followed by a strong rebound basket by the constantly-moving Gehl.

That sequence put the Lady Jays ahead by seven, 30-23, with 2:15 to play before intermission.

Gehl, who made nine straight free throws before missing her only one of the game, netted 15 points in the first half.

West takes control

early in second half

Coming out of the break, Kramer (eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals) connected with Drooger on a backdoor lob for an eight-point lead.

A bit later, Drooger (eight points, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks) fired in her second three-pointer of the game and MW was up 39-28 with 18:16 to play.

Kramer connected with Brittney Hermeling (nine points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals) on a well-executed fast break as the lead stayed at 11.

After a free throw by Hermeling (freshman from Fulda) and a pair by Andersen, West stretched the lead to 15 when Andersen scored down low (assist Drooger) with 13:58 remaining.

Baskets by Andersen (10 points, five rebounds) and Gehl followed, capping the 16-4 run and giving the Lady Jays a 50-32 lead with 12:53 to play.

Kramer’s three-point play —- off a hard left-side drive —- kept the advantage at 18, 55-37, with 10:19 on the clock.

Gehl, who made 17-of-18 free throws, blocked a trio of shots and snagged a team-leading nine rebounds, finished with a game-high 27 points. She scored eight of West’s last 14 points, sinking six free throws and converting on a spectacular putback.

Hermeling added four late-game points with a long-range two-pointer and a pair of free throws, while Andersen made two shots from the line.

The Lady Jays were 30-of-38 at the line (78.9 percent) and 18-of-54 (33.3 percent) from the field.

Tech shot 63.6 percent from the line (14-of-22), but only 26.5 percent (18-of-68) from the field. The Cavaliers made only one three-point shot in 13 attempts, as the Lady Jays did an excellent job on guard Ali Brey (one-of-five), who entered the game shooting a sizzling 46.4 percent (26-of-56) on three-pointers in Tech’s first 12 games.

“Minnesota West has a nice team,” summed up Tech head coach Ron Latva. “They have several good players, who have both size and speed.”

The Lady Jays play at Ridgewater on Wednesday and host always-strong Anoka-Ramsey on Sunday.

Western Tech 28 51

Minnesota West 34 69

W. Tech (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Williams 0-2-2-6, Brey 1-0-3-6, Hackbarth 0-3-2-8, Greene 0-1-0-2, Weber 0-1-3-5, Bartels 0-1-0-2, Meade 0-4-2-10, Watson 0-5-2-12. Totals 1-17-14-51.

M. West (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hermeling 0-3-3-9, Kramer 0-1-6-8, Kemper 1-2-0-7, Gehl 0-5-17-27, Drooger 2-1-0-8, Andersen 0-3-4-10. Totals 3-15-30-69.