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Women's college basketball: Lady Jays win inside and out

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West Lady Jay Tiffany Gehl (right) unleashes a shot against Rochester Wednesday in Worthington.

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Connecting on six of their first seven three-point shots Wednesday evening, the Minnesota West Lady Jays vaulted to a 25-11 lead on the visiting Rochester Yellowjackets and — after holding off a late first-half surge —controlled the action by going inside frequently after intermission.

The net result of that effective outside-inside combination, along with improved team defense in the second half, yielded an impressive 93-69 victory for West, which improved to 20-5 for the season and became 9-2 in the Southern Division of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC).

“We did what we needed to do,” summed up a satisfied MW head coach Mike Fury after the well-balanced win by the Lady Jays. “We played much better defense in the second half and really took command in those first five minutes coming out of the break.”

MW extended a 46-37 halftime advantage into a 68-43 lead over a span of 5:15 with a 22-6 burst to open the second half.

Sophomore forward Lindsey Drooger, who was a perfect four-of-four from behind the arc in the first half, capped the run with her fifth trey of the game. She scored 14 points prior to intermission and finished with a game-high 23 points, along with four nifty assists and a pair of blocks.

Drooger’s first three-pointer gave the Lady Jays an early 5-4 lead, and MW’s long-range assault continued as Brittney Hermeling, Drooger, Tiffany Gehl, Bridget Kramer and Drooger followed suit in helping build that 25-11 advantage with 13:11 to play in the first half.

Lydia Kemper followed with two treys of her own and West rolled to a 39-20 lead before the Yellowjackets (9-15, 4-8) responded with an 8-0 run. A bit later, after each team made a free throw, Drooger’s fourth long-range shot from behind the arc stretched the edge to 43-29.

Rochester countered again, sparked by a pair of baskets by freshman Jenna Nelson (Slayton), who played her high school basketball at Murray County Central. Finishing the half with an 8-3 run, the Yellowjackets scored 17 of the last 24 points of the first half, trimming a 19-point deficit down to nine.

“We forgot to guard anyone there a few times at the end of the half,” summed up Fury. “We got that corrected and played much better in the second half.”

After two quick inside hoops by Drooger lifted the Lady Jays to a 50-37 lead, a dandy step-through move by sophomore forward Kristen Andersen (20 points, team-high nine rebounds) gave West two more points down low. Andersen did not score a point among the team’s first 30, but finished the first half with six and then netted 14 more after intermission.

“Kristen has some good moves,” praised Fury. “She had a nice second half on the inside for us.”

Andersen fed Gehl for another inside bucket and Kramer (game-high 11 assists) tossed a perfect lead pass to Kemper for a layup, which extended the lead to 59-38.

The hard-working Kemper (14 points, six rebounds) sank a free throw, Andersen made two shots from the line and then Kemper and Drooger netted back-to-back treys before Andersen converted a three-point play off a putback, making the score 71-47 with 12:51 remaining.

Ness, who finished with a team-high 16 points and snagged six rebounds for the Yellow jackets, scored down low for Rochester, but two free throws each by Andersen and Drooger pushed MW’s advantage to 75-47 with 10:52 left.

Kramer distributed a pair of beautiful late-game assists to Christine Kazemba and Bailey Tish for easy buckets in the lane. Earlier, Drooger had made a sweet inside pass to Andersen for a hoop and Gehl (20 points, eight rebounds) scored on a weakside rebound and nailed her second three-pointer of the game to highlight some of the top plays by the Lady Jays in the closing minutes.

Kazemba, who made a fine defensive play which forced a Yellowjacket travel, was playing her final game on the new court at MW’s Center for Health and Wellness, as were the trio of Andersen, Drooger and Gehl, who have enjoyed so much success for the Lady Jays over the past two seasons.

“It was a good game for those four sophomores to finish up here,” concluded Fury. “This was a nice win and we have to be ready to play well on Saturday, too.”

The Lady Jays play last-place Riverland (7-17, 1-9) at Austin Saturday.

Hermeling, who has exceptional leaping ability, had a fine all-around statistical game Wednesday, finishing with seven rebounds, six points, four assists and team-leading three steals.

Both Hermeling and Gehl — who played high school basketball for Fulda — had a good-sized group of hometown fans on hand to watch the two former Raiders perform, as did MCC’s Ness, who was six-of-eight from the free throw line.

Rochester 37 69

MN West 46 93

ROCHESTER (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Reinardy 1-1-2-7, Zuhlsdorf 0-1-2-4, Durhman 1-0-1-4, Riedemann 2-1-1-9, Hlavka 0-2-0-4, Espinosa 1-0-0-3, Adams 0-6-2-14, Ness 0-5-6-16, Norman 1-2-1-8. Totals 6-18-15-69.

MW WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hermeling 1-0-3-6, Kramer 1-0-2-5, Kemper 3-2-1-14, Kazemba 0-1-0-2, Gehl 2-5-4-20, Drooger 5-3-2-23, Andersen 0-7-6-20, Tish 0-1-1-3. Totals 12-19-19-93.