Bluejays play tough, lose 74-69 to Riverland
The Bluejay's rotation of seven players kept up with the larger roster of the Riverland Blue Devils. The Minnesota West mens' team missed a 3-point shot in the final seconds to force overtime.
WORTHINGTON – Two complete halves of stiff Minnesota West defense gave the Bluejays a chance to force overtime against conference opponent Riverland in a mens’ basketball game on Wednesday night. The Bluejays’ last offensive play came when the team was down three points with 13 seconds remaining. The play was inbounded from sophomore Elijah Williams who after a series of passes threw up a 3-pointer which missed its mark. The ball was rebounded by a Riverland Blue Devil player who connected on both free throws after a Bluejays’ foul for a 74-69 Riverland victory.
The Bluejays never trailed by more than 12 points, and locked down in the final 25 seconds in the first half to maintain the score a one possession game with Riverland leading 35-33.
The Bluejays offense came strong to start the second half and after an 8-0 run the Bluejays retook the lead.
The Bluejays played seven players in the game, with numbers being down due to injuries, illnesses, and other tolls the season has given the team. All seven dressed players scored for the Bluejays.
“We had way more good shots tonight,” said Minnesota West head coach Brian Stoebner. “That changes the game. That makes them (Blue Devils) play defense longer, because you have got to work to create a good shot and now they have to play defense longer.”
The Bluejays’ perimeter defense was a constant thorn in the side of Riverland. As the Blue Devils were held to just two made 3-pointers on 16 attempts.
“We made them take tough shots,” said Stoebner on the defensive performance. “There weren't a whole lot of really wide open ones. One of their really good shooters only attempted three shots. We wanted to make certain people beat us and I thought we did pretty good for the most part.”
Jamari Walker, a freshman forward from Cottage Grove, Minnesota, was lethal on offense for the Blue Devils, with 24 total points. Walker was most effective in the first half with 13 points. Four of his points in the second half came from free throws.
The leading scorer for the Bluejays was Williams with 21 points. Williams was hot from beyond the arch with five treys. Bie Ruei had 10 points and a block. Sam Daho from Yvelines, France, started for the Bluejays and had 10 points and a steal.
“I consider myself a good team player,” said Daho about his ability on the court. “Just getting the best shots possible for everybody, and my ability to create not just for myself but for my teammates as well.”
Daho was key for Minnesota West in its ability to slow down the now 14-6 Blue Devils which featured many strong shooters in their roster.
“Defense is just a pride thing,” said Daho. “We know we are down on guys, we have got nine if we are lucky so the mentality is just to give it all on the court and slow it down on offense to recover but defense is give it all and lock in.”
The defeat was certainly bitter for the Bluejays but their play on the court was worthy of a victory.
“We looked like guys who care about each other the whole time,” said Stoebner. “That’s kind of what basketball is about and it is a big message for our guys to continue to play like that. If you are going to go out here and play for anyone, play for your dudes. I am heartbroken that we could not get a win for our guys.”
The Bluejays return to action on Saturday against Anoka which are a very strong team.
Riverland 35 74
Bluejays 33 69
RIVERLAND (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) – Walker 0-9-6-24, Cooper 2-3-3-15, Brizendine 0-1-0-2, McCall 0-6-0-12, Moye 0-1-2-4, Galimah 0-6-0-12, Weddle 0-1-1-3, Berry 0-1-0-2. Totals 2-28-12-74.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) – Ruei 0-2-6-10, Drent 0-4-0-8, Daho 0-3-4-10, Neyail 1-2-0-7, Williams 5-3-0-21, Ndumbe 1-3-0-9, Dorian 0-1-2-4. Totals 7-18-12-69.