By AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- Avery Van Roekel spends a lot of time on the basketball court.
Not only is she a sophomore on the Minnesota West women’s team, but she is also an assistant coach with the Luverne High School girls team.
And with West’s 87-41 victory over Ridgewater on Thursday, the double duty will continue a little longer as the Lady Jays clinched a spot in the region tournament.
“You never assume you have it in the bag,” Van Roekel said. “Right away, our pregame we said, ‘Let’s go out and control our own destiny. This means a lot for our future, so let’s take it now and put it in our own hands.’ I think we did that.”
For Van Roekel, more basketball is a good thing.
“It’s busy, there hasn’t been a day since basketball started that I haven’t been at a basketball thing,” she said. “It’s crazy, but I love it.”
While Van Roekel knew that playing and coaching would be tough, seeing both aspects has been a positive.
“I feel it helps still being a player and being a coach,” she said. “We’re out calling plays and once in a while Moz (MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka) will look and I’m like, ‘Let’s try this.’ I feel like it helps me be more of a leader on the court knowing both sides of the game.”
For Hayenga-Hostikka, she has seen the advantage for her team.
“Anytime you can get another coach on the floor, that’s huge,” the coach said. “I think when you see it as a player, it’s one way, but when you have to coach, I think that makes you see the game from a different perspective.”
In the earlier matchup, Ridgewater had an early lead on MW. On Thursday, the Lady Jays made sure that wouldn’t happen. They scored on their first five possessions and went on a 14-0 run late in the first quarter to lead 27-10.
“We talked about taking care of business against them,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “They’ve struggled a little bit in conference play. Up there, we were down by 12 and they gave us everything we could handle. I thought we did a good job of taking care of business, coming out and setting the tone those first five minutes. I thought we passed the ball really well. I thought we did some nice things tonight.”
West outscored the Warriors 23-7 in the second quarter and led 50-17 at the break.
“I think when we played them the first time, we kind of got in our own heads a little bit, like, ‘I guess it’s just Ridgewater, they haven’t won very many games.’ We let that get in our heads instead of playing our game, we just kind of played right into their hands,” Van Roekel said. “We’ve been working on helpside defense a lot in practice lately and I think that’s helped us a lot. We’re starting to carry that over into the game. We’re talking more, which makes us play more as a team and when you have all five people on the floor who can score, it makes it really hard to defend.”
All five starters scored in double figures, as Lexie Ramsey scored 21, Van Roekel added 17, Emily Shaffer with 16, Emily Schroer with 12 and M’Kayla Mike had 10 points and six assists.
“Instead of relying on a couple of people, we’re actually working the ball around,” Van Roekel said. “When a couple people score double digits, the next team we play will catch on to that, so they will double team those people and our other people on the court can score too.”
West played well on both ends of the floor as it shot 43 percent from the field and committed just six turnovers in the game.
“I told them I about fainted when I saw that,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “I said, ‘Shoot, we usually have six turnovers in the first five minutes.’ If we can get under 10 turnovers, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The Lady Jays finish the regular season on Saturday by hosting Rochester.
Ridgewater 10 17 24 41
Lady Jays 27 50 67 87
RIDGEWATER (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Kuczek 1-2-2-9, Rose 1-4-0-11, Frederick 2-1-0-8, Swenson 0-3-3-9, Vogt 0-1-2-4. Totals 4-11-7-41,
LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Ramsey 4-4-1-21, Mike 1-3-1-10, Schroer 2-3-0-12, Shaffer 0-8-0-16, Van Roekel 0-5-7-17, Unke 0-0-2-2, Pourier 1-0-2-5, Rosenberg 0-2-0-4. Totals 8-25-13-87.