WORTHINGTON -- Rallies resounded through the Center for Health and Wellness here Saturday as the 16th annual Sanford Worthington Basketball Classic concluded.
The Minnesota West women’s and men’s teams both rebounded after rough starts during tournament games with junior varsity teams from Dordt University. But the second-half surges didn’t result in two victories for the Bluejay teams.
The Dordt women held off Minnesota West 71-61 on Saturday afternoon. Then later Saturday night the West men charged past Dordt 81-70.
The Lady Jays, 0-3 on the season, are home to face the Gustavus Adolphus JV on Wednesday, Nov. 13. The next scheduled action for the Minnesota West men (3-0) is Saturday, Nov. 23, at Iowa Lakes.
Dordt women 71, Lady Jays 61
It was a painful game for the Minnesota West women, and not just because of the final score.
The Lady Jays played without injured star Emily Schroer, who suffered a knee injury on Friday, and couldn’t recover after falling behind 22-2 in the first eight minutes.
“I can’t explain our start,” said Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, the former Lady Jays’ superstar who is now the team’s head coach. “It was just awful basketball. And (the players) know it. When you can’t score it often carries over to defense and it leads to easy buckets. They just had transition like crazy in the first half.”
Abby Geer, a freshman point guard from Gillette, Wyo., drained five 3-pointers and scored 18 points as Dordt’s Defenders led wire-to-wire. The Defenders led 48-17 early in the third quarter and seemed to put it on cruise control.
But suddenly, the Lady Jays turned it around.
Thanks to increased intensity at both ends and the scoring punch of sophomores Emily Shaffer and Lexie Ramsey, Minnesota West got back into the game.
“It was night and day,” Hayenga-Hostikka said of the difference in her team after halftime.
The Lady Jays outscored Dordt 18-8 in the third quarter and 44-25 in the second half, shaving what had been a 31-point deficit down to eight in the closing moments.
“In the second half I believe that’s the team that I feel that we can be,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “I’m not a fan of moral victories by any means. But if we play like how we did in the second half we’ll win some games.”
Shaffer, a 5-11 forward from Worthington, had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Ramsey added 12 points, four assists and numerous floor burns from defensive hustle.
There is but one other sophomore on the Lady Jays’ roster: Schroer, whose experience and talent are big reasons Minnesota West is picked to finish second this winter in the MCAC’s Southern Division.
“She’s our best 3-point shooter,” said Hayenga-Hostikka. “She blew her ACL her senior year in high school (at Fulda) and she said she felt a pop (in the same knee). So we’re nervous. She’s going to get some MRIs this week and we’ll find out more.”
Freshmen Melissa Brandt of Lakefield (10 points) and Evelyn Orthow of Worthington (8 points, 8 rebounds), the latter an athletic forward, had some fine moments in the second half for the Lady Jays.
Ramsey was a particular sparkplug.
“We came out that second half harder than anything,” Ramsey said. “We just need to start playing like that right off the tipoff … We need to get together as a team and figure out how to start as strong as we finish.”
Said Shaffer: “I don’t know why we couldn’t get going in the first half. But there’s a lot of room from improvement. We can only go up from here.”
Bluejay men 81, Dordt JV 70
The visiting Defenders from Sioux Center, Iowa, looked right at home in the first half, shooting 8-for-14 from 3-point range en route to a seemingly safe 11-point halftime lead.
But Minnesota West turned to Jaimon Cheek thereafter, and the sophomore guard from Waldorf, Md., delivered.
“It was about leadership,” said the veteran Cheek, who finished with 24 points as the Jays dominated the second half and won going away. “If the freshmen see the sophomores going out there and (playing hard), they feed off the energy.”
Sophomore shooting guard Xavier Dixon scored 12 points and sophomore point guard Chris Morales had nine points and six assists for the Jays.
“We played a lot better defense in the second half,” said Jays’ coach Taylor Lupton.
Dordt, which led by as many as 14 in the first half, was up 57-52 with about 13 minutes left to play before the Jays went on a startling 21-2 run. The rally featured contributions from many West players, including freshman Elijah Williams, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half. Sophomore Emmanuel Tor’s conventional three-point play cut the deficit to 57-55, and Cheek’s stop-back trey moments later put the Jays ahead to stay.
Minnesota West, picked to finish fifth in the MCAC South’s preseason poll, poured it on thereafter.
Dordt shot 2-for-12 from 3-point range in the second half as the active Minnesota West defense contested many more shots than in the opening 20 minutes.
The Blue Jays are unbeaten. And in the second half, they looked like it.
“It’s a great start for the team,” said Lupton.
And a pretty fair first part of the season for Cheek.
“I can’t say enough about Jaimon,” said Lupton. “He’s a great kid who just works his butt off. And he’s pretty good at putting the ball in the hoop.”
Cheek is also, it turns out, a veteran performer who understands what it takes to make a successful basketball team.
“We’re confident,” said Cheek. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And we know that.”
Dordt JV 24 22 8 17 -- 71
Minnesota West 9 8 18 26 -- 61
DORDT JV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP)
Geer 5-1-1-18, Thomsen 1-1-1-6, Veenstra 1-2-2-9, Timmer 1-3-2-11, Dille 0-2-0-4, de Jong 2-1-0-8, Fopma 0-1-0-2, Hammen 1-2-2-9, Hurst 0-1-2-4. Totals: 11-14-10-71.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP)
Justine Bernazeau 0-2-0-4, Anna Cassou 0-0-0-0, Melissa Brandt 0-5-0-10, Lexie Ramsey 1-2-5-12, Emily Shaffer 3-5-1-20, Evelyn Othow 0-3-2-8, Alanna Goetzinger 0-2-3-7. Totals: 4-19-11-61.
Dordt JV 46 24 -- 70
Minnesota West 35 46 -- 81
DORDT JV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP)
Wieting 0-2-0-4, Veurink 1-5-0-13, Byker 2-1-0-8, Lambert 1-1-0-5, Vredevoogd 2-0-0-6, Hassing 0-2-0-4, Reitsma 0-2-0-4, Bellcock 2-0-0-6, Rosener 2-2-0-10, Pietersen 0-1-0-2, Klaasen 0-2-0-4, Vanderhorst 0-0-4-4. Totals: 10-18-4-70.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP)
Chris Morales 1-3-0-9, Jaimon Cheek 3-7-1-24, Traelius Robinson 1-3-0-9, Elijah Williams 0-5-0-10, Emmanuel Akot 0-2-0-4, Xavier Dixon 2-3-0-12, Chris Bwanya 0-2-0-4, Emmanuel Tor 0-4-1-9. Totals: 7-29-2-81.