College men's basketball: Bluejays rally to beat Riverland

BY DOUG WOLTER WORTHINGTON -- After a sluggish start in the first half, the Minnesota West men's basketball team overcame Riverland 82-79 Saturday afternoon at the Center for Health and Wellness in Worthington. Riverland sped t...

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Minnesota West men's basketball player Kuol Chol shoots against Riverland's Octavein Johnson Saturday in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)



WORTHINGTON -- After a sluggish start in the first half, the Minnesota West men’s basketball team overcame Riverland 82-79 Saturday afternoon at the Center for Health and Wellness in Worthington.

Riverland sped to a 9-2 lead and increased it to 21-8 and 35-17 in the first half before the Bluejays woke up and slowly, yet steadily got themselves back into the game. Finally, with 10:38 remaining in the second half, West took its first lead on the scrappy Blue Devils.


“The guys are resilient,” said Minnesota West head coach Aaron Poor Bear. “We came out flat in the first half, and we just had to plug away.”

The victory increased Minnesota West’s season record to 13-8 and its Southern Division mark to 5-3. Riverland fell to 14-7 and 5-3.

DeShawn Pickford finished with 21 points for the Jays. Alex Brown had 19 and Kuol Chol scored 15, including 12 in the second half. Ke’Shawn Syph scored 12 points.

Pickford also had four assists. Brown had six rebounds.

Riverland converted 11 3-point shots compared to Minnesota West’s six. But West hit 24 of 34 free throws in the game while Riverland made 14 of 18.

Down so far in the first half, Poor Bear said the Jays’ goal was to cut the lead to 10 points or less by intermission. Riverland led 39-29 at halftime.

West’s first lead came on a Jeffrey Hudson layup, from an assist from Chol, and it was 56-55. Teammate Alex Preston sunk a 3-point shot at 6:26 to give his team a 63-60 lead, and Brown -- who was whistled for his fourth foul at 7:53 -- hit a 3 at 4:29 to increase the lead to six at 71-65.

Riverland kept the Bluejays from pulling away further, however, thanks mostly to 6-0 sophomore point guard Jace Klinkner, who proved virtually impossible to stop when driving through the lane.


Klinkner finished with 38 points, and was 6-for-12 from 3-point range.

At 2:39, West got a big 2-point shot from Chol for 75-71. At 2:02 Syph rebounded his own shot and put it back for a 77-71 advantage.

Pickford, after missing a pair of free throws seconds earlier, was on the line again with 47.9 seconds remaining, whereupon he missed the first and made the second for a 78-72 MW lead.

At that point, it looked like a West win was practically in the books, but Riverland hit a 3-pointer and made a steal, then called timeout with 29.1 seconds left, trailing by just three.

The Blue Devils’ Jacob Persoon was called for traveling, however, and both Brown and Pickford made free throws in the closing seconds. Riverland produced a slam-dunk just before the buzzer to get the visitors within three.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Poor Bear, and when the Bluejays had their poor start, the road back was possession by possession.

“The guys just moved the ball offensively. Defensively, we were just looking to get some stops,” he said.

Riverland 39 79


Bluejays 29 82

RIVERLAND (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Klinker 6-7--6-38, Young 1-0-1-4, Johnson 0-4-2-10, Persoon 2-0-0-6, Raggs 1-0-0-3, Parker 0-5-3-13, Smith 1-0-2-5. Totals 11-16-14-79.

BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Chol 1-4-5-15, Pickford 0-6-9-21, Hudson 0-3-0-6, Ojulu 0-0-0-0, Preston 3-0-0-9, Brown 2-3-7-19, Snelling 0-0-0-0, Syph 0-4-4-12, Walker 0-0-0-0. Totals 6-20-24-82.

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Minnesota West Bluejay Tyrone Walker (13) forces his way through the heavy defense exerted by Riverland. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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
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