WORTHINGTON -- It looked as if the Lady Jays just wanted it more.
“Kinda felt like that, didn’t it?” said Minnesota West women’s basketball coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka Wednesday night, moments after her team subdued the Gustavus Adolphus College JV 69-64 at the Center for Health and Wellness in Worthington.
“What did we get behind by, 10 points? It would have been easy to second-guess ourselves or fold. But nothing else, we were going to go down fighting. I just think we had great energy and intensity,” Hayenga-Hostikka said.
After three frustrating losses against four-year programs prior to Wednesday, the Jays improved to 1-4. Both offensively and defensively they were more in sync than they’d been in the previous three outings. Sophomore guard Lexie Ramsey and freshman post Melissa Brandt led a second-half charge that erased a 10-point fourth quarter deficit as they scored 41 points between them. Ramsey also had nine steals and Brandt bulled her way inside for 10 rebounds.
“Those two are just tireless workers. I think everybody else kind of follows their lead, too,” said Hayenga-Hostikka.
Minnesota West fans are very familiar with Ramsey’s quickness and intensity. Unless they watched her perform in high school at Jackson County Central, they are less familiar with Brandt’s style. Not tall for a post player -- she’s listed at 5-10 but looks shorter -- she is a fighter on both ends of the floor, pushing through taller opponents for hard-earned points and rebounds.
“I love her. I love her. She’s just working her tail off every time,” said the coach.
“I’m a shorter post, so that’s the only way I can get in. I’m playing against the bigger posts. Just gotta work as hard as you can,” testified Brandt, who added, “I think we went into this game wanting it pretty bad. I think we just wanted to get this team. They’re a good team and it was a good win.”
West led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter and 24-10 early in the second, but the Jays’ lead was cut to one point, 29-28, at halftime. The Gusties led 57-47 at the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Lady Jays took over.
Ramsey made a steal and driving layup with 6:15 to go, twisting her body as she converted her shot to draw a foul. She made the free throw, and it was 58-54. Freshman Anna Cadassou made a long 2-point shot at the top of the key to tie the game at 58-58 with 5:09 remaining. A Brandt left-handed layup off a feed from Emily Shaffer put West in front 60-58. A free throw by Shaffer and another Ramsey steal and layup at 2:54 put the Jays in front 65-58. At 1:15 Brandt went hard to the basket in traffic, was fouled, and made two free throws for 67-58.
The Gusties came within three points, 67-64, with 45 seconds remaining. But they could get no closer.
Brandt said the Lady Jays worked diligently on transition defense all week. Hayenga-Hostikka believes the team, which features several freshmen, may be starting to come together.
“I think we’re learning how to play together a little more. I think we’re learning how to play on the defensive end, to communicate a little more. Defensively, we’re starting to find things out a little more,” she said. “I’m excited about the defensive effort.”
Ramsey’s 21 points and Brandt’s 20 paced the Lady Jays, who converted 21 of 27 free throws and made .415 percent of their field goals. They also won the rebounding war, 39-37. West played the game without injured sophomore guard Emily Schroer. Freshman guard Teylor Albers also didn’t dress
Gustavus Adolphus, which converted nine 3-point shots to West’s four, were led by Marnie Wagner with 20 points and Maddy Rice with 16. Former Pipestone Area High School standout Rachel Skyberg scored 10 points.