College basketball: Minnesota West earns much-needed sweep

WORTHINGTON -- Both the Minnesota West men's and women's basketball teams came into Friday's home doubleheader with Itasca desperately looking for a victory. And both teams delivered, with the women claiming a 60-52 victory and the men following ...

AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West’s Rashead Yelverton puts up a shot against Itasca Community College Friday in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON - Both the Minnesota West men’s and women’s basketball teams came into Friday’s home doubleheader with Itasca desperately looking for a victory.
And both teams delivered, with the women claiming a 60-52 victory and the men following with an 80-76 win.
The Bluejays and Lady Jays are both in action today as they host Northland, beginning at 1 p.m.
Head coach Justin Heckenlaible said it wasn’t a pretty game.
But in the end, whether it’s pretty or not, it was still a four-point victory for the Bluejays (2-3).
“It wasn’t the most pretty thing. With their trapping and pressing, they take you out of your offense,” Heckenlaible said. “We handled it well at time and at other times, we didn’t. But overall I was very happy with our effort.”
Facing a scrappy Itasca team that utilized multiple pressing and zone defenses, Minnesota West was able to get to the free-throw line 32 times. The Bluejays converted on 21 of those, including 11 in the final six minutes of the game.
“They take you out of your stuff, we really couldn’t run anything because we didn’t know when they were going to trap and they did a really good job of that,” Heckenlaible said. “Credit to their coach and their guys. They did a nice job. But we executed enough, we made enough free throws.”
Rashead Yelverton led the Bluejays with 22 points, while Zech Adams scored 11 and Jesse Koerselman finished with 10 points.
“Yelverton made 11 of 13 free throws, which was big,” Heckenlaible said. “I thought Jesse played really well later in the second half. He had some post touches and some loose-ball rebounds and put backs. It was very physical and we handled it well at times and at other times we didn’t. We made enough plays to win.”
MW struggled out of the game, and found itself down 25-19 midway through the first half.
“At the beginning, we came out slow, but after half we came out and wanted to win,” Koerselman said. “We were up 12 and when we went into halftime we were only up five, so that was kind of nerve-wracking. We definitely didn’t them to get back in the game. But we came back out and it was neck-and-neck the whole game.”
After a timeout, Rahsheed Cameron scored on a drive to start a 15-0 run that gave MW a 34-25 lead.
“We just realized what we had to do,” Koerselman said. “(Heckenlaible) changed it up because of what they were running and we weren’t ready for what they were running. We adjusted to what they did.”
The Bluejays, who led 44-39 at halftime, saw their lead shrink to one point in the second half. However, another run quickly gave the Bluejays some breathing room.
“I think we had four or five stops in a row. If you can do that and capitalize on the other end, those are momentum changers and that’s what it was,” Heckenlaible said. “We’ve definitely been a spurt team. We haven’t been 4-0 or 4-2 run team, it’s been 15-0 or large runs like that on us and we’ve put that on other teams also.”
The Vikings were within three points, 76-73, in the final 25 seconds, but Adams and Yelverton each hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.
“At the end, we got ahold of the game,” Koerselman said. “It came down to the last minute and we got it.”
MW hosts Northland today.
“It’s feels good to get out of the losing streak and hopefully we can get into a winning streak,” Koerselman said. “Hopefully we can get the ‘W.’”
Itasca 39 76
MW 44 80
ITASCA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Abdullah 0-3-0-6, Adkisson 1-3-4-13, Harkins 2-3-2-14, Konah 0-2-1-5, White 0-3-2-8, Emmanuel 0-1-9-11, Roby 0-1-2-4, Einfeldt 1-0-0-3, Mutabaruka 0-1-0-2, Smith 0-3-4-10. Totals 4-20-24-76.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Cameron 0-3-3-9, Yelverton 1-4-11-22, Adams 2-1-4-12, Prouty 3-0-0-9, Chester 1-1-0-5, Pennington 0-1-2-4, Kruse 0-4-1-9, Koerselman 0-5-0-10. Totals 7-22-21-80.
Trailing 43-39 at the end of the third quarter Friday night, the Minnesota West women’s team needed a good 10 minutes to claim their first home victory of the young season.
The Lady Jays delivered, outscoring Itasca 21-9 in the fourth quarter en route to an eight-point victory.
“I think that’s the best quarter of basketball we’ve played all year by far,” MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka said.
The Lady Jays found themselves trailing by as many as 12 points early in the third quarter, forcing a timeout.
“I think we got down by 12 and called that timeout,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “I was really proud of the way we responded after that. I just thought we played with a lot of energy. We got some stuff in transition. It was a much-needed win.”
Out of the timeout, Breanna Nelson hit a key 3-pointer as the deficit was down to single digits.
“That’s the thing that we haven’t been able to get her as many open looks as we should against the zone,” Hayenga-Hostikka said of Nelson. “Part of that is the inside out game, and we haven’t gotten that yet. She’s a great 3-point shooter. If we keep seeing the zones like that, she’s going to have to hit some.”
MW, which trailed 15-10 after the first quarter and 32-26 at halftime, faced a 43-39 deficit at the end of the third quarter.
But again, Nelson came up with a key shot, making a triple from the right wing a minute into the fourth, cutting the lead to one point.
“Knowing that we can rely on her in those situations to knock down a game-changing 3-pointer, it’s nice to know we can count on her to do that,” Brooke Henning said of Nelson.
For Henning, it was a frustrating first half. With early foul trouble, she was limited to just five points in the opening two quarters.
“I felt good during warm-ups and I don’t know what happened,” she said. “It just didn’t carry on in the first quarter. I got frustrated when I got two fouls right away and I couldn’t play. I knew I had to shake it off and come back in the second quarter.”
But she made her mark in the final 20 minutes, scoring 14 second-half points to finish with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds.
After Nelson’s key 3 to start the fourth, Henning followed with a free throw to tie the game. With six minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the game, Henning hit a 3 from the left wing to give MW its first lead of the night. Nelson followed with a jumper, giving the Lady Jays a 48-43 advantage.
“I think it was huge for us to come back and to open it up and play a fourth quarter like that,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “I’m very proud of them for that.”
Two minutes later, Maer Abella hit a shot inside and Tanner Gunnink (14 points), scored two consecutive baskets as the inside game started to wear down the Vikings’ defense.
“It’s nice to have that with Tanner being back,” Henning said. “Her size really helps out. It helps create something open for one of us other posts. It makes a huge difference in the game when we can actually get it inside.”
MW (2-6) led by as many as 10 points late in the game before closing out the eight-point victory. It won’t get easier for the Lady Jays as Northland - the nation’s second-ranked team - visits today.
“It’s nice to finally get our first home win too with a nice crowd. It’s such a good feeling to get back into our conference and into the groove of things,” Henning said. “We’ll just have to carry our momentum. We know they are going to do things different than what Itasca just did, but we just have to adjust and we should be OK.”
Itasca 15 32 43 52
MW 10 26 39 60
ITASCA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Smith 1-1-0-5, Heck 3-2-1-14, Brown 0-1-0-2, Gelher 2-2-1-11, Haley 0-2-1-5, Welk 0-1-3-5, Owens 0-4-2-10. Totals 6-13-8-15.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hermeling 0-0-3-3, Nelson 2-1-1-9, Noid 0-0-1-1, Kramer 1-1-3-8, Henning 1-3-10-19, Gunnink 0-6-2-14, Abella 0-3-0-6. Totals 4-14-20-60.

AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Breanna Nelson of Minnesota West attempts a shot Friday night against Itasca.

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