College basketball: Minnesota West women headed to nationals
ROCHESTER -- In 34 years at the helm of Minnesota West's women's basketball team, head coach Mike Fury said his teams have "been the bridesmaids a lot, but never the brides."...
ROCHESTER - In 34 years at the helm of Minnesota West’s women’s basketball team, head coach Mike Fury said his teams have “been the bridesmaids a lot, but never the brides.”
The Lady Jays clinched their first trip to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament since the late 1970s Sunday with a thrilling 60-59 victory over arch-rival Rochester Technical and Community College in the Region 13A title game.
“It’s a great, great, great feeling to win the Region 13A championship,” Fury said. “That’s what we work for every year. There have been a lot of years where we’ve come close but haven’t quite been able to do it. The feeling is hard to describe.”
Making the title even sweeter was the fact the Lady Jays were able to do it on the home court of their opponents. It was a Yellowjackets team that had beaten them twice this season.
West led by as many as seven - the largest lead in the game for either team - in the first half, but RCTC clawed back to within two at halftime. The home team eventually led by five with five minutes to play, but huge three-pointers by Brooke Henning and Kristen Andersen kept the Lady Jays in it.
They eventually led by four with time running out. The Yellowjackets buried a 30-foot three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left. They fouled the Lady Jays in an attempt to get the ball back, but West held on until the final buzzer rang.
“It was just a tough, tough game,” Fury said. “Both teams played really hard and we’re so fortunate to be getting the opportunity to go to nationals.”
Though Fury, who was also named Region 13A Coach of the Year Sunday, didn’t want to take any of the credit, he said to be in his position after all these years felt pretty good.
“You work so hard and you coach so hard, to reach this point is just on honor,” he said. “It’s a great honor to be able to coach these girls.”
Andersen had a big game for the Lady Jays, pouring in a game-high 23 points. Henning added 16 while grabbing a team-best 11 rebounds. Brittney Hermeling tallied nine points, eight boards and three assists. Bridget Kramer added five helpers.
To play for the championship, West first had to win its tournament semifinal bout against St. Cloud Tech on Saturday night in Rochester.
The Lady Jays employed an air-tight defense to take a 63-48 win.
“It was a good win,” Fury said. “To win the championship you have to win in the semifinals. It was just a great weekend overall.”
West led by seven at half but the Cyclones got within two with 14 minutes to play. From there, it was all Lady Jays. They led by as many as 20 in the second half.
Melissa Gehl drained four three-pointers to score a game-high 26 points for West. Henning added 15 and Hermeling scored 12. Kramer dished out 10 assists, moving her into second place all-time among the Lady Jays career assists leaders.
The national tournament will be held March 12-14 in Bethlehem, Penn. Fury said seeding is supposed to take place next week.
“We’re excited,” he said. “The national tournament is something that has eluded us for many years. We’re overjoyed.”
Lady Jays 32 60
RCTC 30 59
LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - B. Hermeling 1-3-0-9, Kramer 0-1-0-2, Henning 1-5-3-16, Gehl 0-2-0-4, Peters 0-3-0-6, Andersen 3-3-8-23. Totals 5-17-11-60.
RCTC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Adams 0-8-2-18, Durham 2-0-2-8, Foster 2-3-2-14, Norman 0-1-0-2, Raymond 2-2-1-11, Reinardy 0-3-0-6. Totals 6-17-7-59.
St. Cloud Tech 20 48
Lady Jays 27 63
ST. CLOUD TECH (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Cunningham 0-3-2-8, Phillips 1-4-2-14, Notch 0-3-0-6, Nelson 2-3-0-12, Quigley 0-3-3-9. Totals 3-16-7-48.
LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - B. Hermeling 3-1-1-12, Kramer 0-0-4-4, Henning 0-6-3-15, Gehl 4-7-0-26, Andersen 0-1-2-4, Tish 0-1-0-2. Totals 7-16-10-63.