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Alford sinks three free throws with 2.5 seconds left to lift West men

Amos Alford's three free throws with less than three seconds remaining gave the Minnesota West men's basketball team a one-point win over Ridgewater Wednesday night. Also Wednesday, the Lady Jays won easily to set up a showdown with Rochester.

Minnesota West Blue Jays Steve Ndumba (4) dribals past Ridgewater Warriors guard Tyson Dyer during Wednesday night's game in Worthington.
The Minnesota West Bluejays' Steve Ndumba (4) dribbles past Ridgewater Warriors guard Tyson Dyer during Wednesday night's game in Worthington.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Amos Alford knew what he had to do. He had to make all three of his free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining in the game Wednesday night for his Minnesota West Bluejays to overcome an 85-83 deficit and beat the Ridgewater Warriors.

He made all three. The first one flew through the net like butter over toast. The second one rattled the rim and fell in. The third one was like the first, all net.

A desperate half-court shot by Ridgewater was missed.

The men’s basketball team’s 86-85 victory over Ridgewater was a big one. The Jays have struggled through most of the 2021-22 season with uneven efforts, but Wednesday’s tense victory moved them to 5-19 and let them feel good about themselves.

“This is a huge win for us, the season we’ve been having,” Alford, a 6-4 freshman, said shortly after the game. “This is a great way to be building back to where we need to be.”

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In the first game of the college doubleheader at Worthington’s Center For Health and Wellness, the Lady Jays easily defeated Ridgewater 77-52, providing lift for Saturday’s last game of the regular season at Rochester.

With a win over Rochester, the women -- who are already assured of a post-season tournament spot, will win the Southern Division.

“We’ll be excited to play them. It’ll be on their court, so it’ll be tough. But it’ll be no pressure because we’re in the playoffs,” head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka declared.

Minnesota West Blue Jays Jacob Dorian (15) rushes the basket defended by visiting Ridgewater Warriors Deron Lacy (21) during Wednesday night's game in Worthington.
Minnesota West's Jacob Dorian (15) rushes the basket defended by Ridgewater's Deron Lacy (21) Wednesday night in Worthington.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Men

Bluejays 86, Ridgewater 85.

West led for most of the game, and by as much as 13 points in the second half. But the Warriors inched closer, tying the score at 81-81 with 1:42 remaining, and at 83-83 with 58.1 seconds left. Then with 9.8 seconds to go, Jaylyn Clardy’s turnaround jumper in the lane gave the visitors an 85-83 advantage.

Minnesota West called a time-out to set up a shot. Alford, under pressure, took it in the right corner beyond the 3-point arc and was fouled. The rest is history.

“Coach (Brian Stoebner) drew up a play. It was supposed to be a back screen for me to go to the corner. The original shot wasn’t there, so I thought I had to improvise,” Alford said.

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And what was he thinking when he went to the line?

“I gotta make these. We gotta get a win. I was a little jittery, but when you see the rim, all that goes out the window,” he said.

Alford finished with 23 points and four assists. Teammate Sam Paulson, who played a tough game inside especially in the second half, also finished with 23 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Jacob Dorian added 14 points for the Jays and London Campbell contributed 12. Steve Ndumba had 10.

D.J. Brown tallied 24 points for Ridgewater, which fell to 14-9 with the loss.

Ridgewater 38 85

Bluejays 45 86

RIDGEWATER (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Dyer 0-6-1-13, Brown 2-5-8-24, Lacy 2-4-4-18, Garick 0-3-0-6, Clardy 1-5-1-14, Jollymore 0-1-0-2, Davis 0-4-0-8. Totals 5-28-14-85.

BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Ndumbe 2-2-0-10, Sohn 0-2-2-4, Dorian 4-1-0-14, Paulson 1-9-2-23, Campbell 2-2-2-12, Alford 2-6-5-23. Totals 11-22-9-86.

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Minnesota West LadyJays Mackensie Post (1) slips past Ridgewater Warriors guard Abby Berskow to put up a shot at the basket during a Wednesday evening game in Worthington.
Minnesota West guard Mackensie Post (1) slips past Ridgewater's Abby Berskow to put up a shot Wednesday.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Women

Lady Jays 77, Ridgewater 52

It was a tight game for the first four minutes of the first quarter, but West led 14-6 heading into the second and stayed in control.

Freshman forward Dannyn Peterson, who kept the Lady Jays well in front by going coast-to-coast for layups in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, led the winners with 16 points. Madisyn Huisman had 11 and Jadyn Lessman 10.

Emily Breske had 12 rebounds and four assists for West to go along with her seven points.

“We took care of business,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “You just gotta do what you gotta do against a team that’s been down a bit. They’re a good team, though. It was a nice team effort in the last home game.”

Ridgewater fell to 3-16 with the loss.

Throughout the game, Ridgewater struggled to rebound, unable to box out successfully. The Warriors were out-rebounded 31-18 in the first half and 56-41 for the game.

Looking ahead to Rochester on Saturday, Hayenga-Hostikka said it’s probably only the third time in her 18 years with West that her team will play for the division championship on the last day of the regular season.

Ridgewater 6 22 37 52

Lady Jays 14 33 57 77

ROCHESTER (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Prahl 0-12-2-26, Berskow 0-0-2-2, Kunstleben 1-0-3-6, Knutson 0-5-2-12, Hanson 0-3-0-6. Totals 1-20-9-52.

LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Murray 0-3-0-6, Peterson 0-7-2-16, Post 0-2-4-8, Zebe 1-2-1-8, Huisman 2-1-3-11, Garcia 0-1-0-2, Werdel 1-2-0-7, Weeldreyer 0-1-0-2, Lessman 0-5-0-10, Breske 1-2-0-7. Totals 5-26-10-77.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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