Feb. 4—WORTHINGTON — The women's basketball team at Minnesota West faced one of its biggest matchups of the season Saturday against Anoka-Ramsey.
The game was between two top-five teams in NJCAA Division III., with the Lady Jays ranking fourth in the latest D3 poll and the Rams ranking third. It is also a rematch, with Minnesota West having won the first game 69-63 on Jan. 6.
On Saturday, the Lady Jays won the anticipated top-five rematch 73-52 thanks to a strong run in the final quarter and a half to pull away at the end.
"I thought that we could take advantage of some things in the post a little bit," said Lady Jays head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostika. "I thought that they couldn't really guard our post space enough, but really, they did a great job with stymieing us for almost three quarters and we just seemed to struggle to get anything going on offense. I was so proud of them because for like the last 12 minutes of the game, I think we scored more points than we did in the whole first three quarters, so that's just kind of sticking to it and working hard. We outrebounded them, and we said that was going to be a huge part of things and so I think that was a key to it too."
Prior to Minnesota West's late run, nearly the first three quarters of the game were mostly low-scoring, oriented mainly on defense and rebounding.
A 3-pointer from Dasia Potter opened the scoring and the Jays later built a 16-9 lead near the end of the quarter following jumpers from Olivia Hayenga and Skyla Petersen. The Rams scored five-straight points to end the quarter and cut Minnesota West's lead to 16-14.
Starting with a trey from Hayenga, the Lady Jays continued to hold a small lead throughout a low-scoring second quarter. The Jays scored 10 only points in the quarter and the Rams scored eight. By halftime, Minnesota West maintained its lead at 26-22.
The first part of the third quarter continued to be a bit low scoring, but a 3-pointer out the gate from Potter quickly brought the Jays' lead up to seven.
Later on though, the Rams had a chance to cut the lead to two points midway through the third quarter. On the team's next possession, Hayenga drew a charge on Anoka-Ramsey, which started a scoring run that helped the Lady Jays begin to take firm control.
Already up six at 38-32 with around two minutes left, Hattie DeVries made an and-one layup before a scuffle on the court led to a technical foul on Anoka-Ramsey. Hayenga made two free throws off of the technical foul and DeVries made her free throw aff the and-one as well and the Jays had five quick points before the Rams' next possession.
A couple possessions later, Petersen hit a trey to cap off an 11-0 Lady Jays run to end the third quarter. By the end of three, they held a 47-33 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Minnesota West's solid defensive effort continued and its lead for the most part continued to grow. Back-to-back jumpers from Hayenga made it 51-33, the Jays' biggest lead. The Rams tried to cut into the lead, but couldn't get any closer than within 13 points as late outside shooting from the Jays helped them further increase their lead and walk away with a big ranked win.
"To hold a team that is that good to that many points, I mean, we've been focusing on defense and rebounding just over and over in practice," Hayenga-Hostikka said about her team's defensive performance. "Against Fergus the other night we gave them 47 (points) and the first time we played them, we gave them 87. ...What we've been working on in practice, they're buying into it, and that's awesome."
Four players scored nearly all of Minnesota West's points as Hayenga led with 22 to go along with 14 rebounds. Potter added 17 points and made five 3-pointers, Petersen had 15 points and DeVries had 13. The Jays outrebounded the Rams 46-38 in the game and shot 50% from the field in the second half.
Leading the Rams in scoring was Alani Pettis with 23 points.
The Jays improved to 17-7 overall with the win and 6-2 in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference's southern division. They remain in second place in the division standings behind Rochester with only four games remaining in the regular season. Their next game will be Wednesday at home against Riverland.
"This is gigantic. We tried not to overplay it too much, but I said this is probably the biggest game of the year right now," Hayenga-Hostikka said about the win. "I mean, we've put ourselves in a very good spot ...now we've got to stay in that spot. You can't can't just say 'Oh, we beat Anoka twice, now we don't have to worry about the other teams,' because the southern division is always hard. But I mean, we've just put ourselves in a really good spot right now."
Anoka-Ramsey 14 8 11 19 — 52
Minnesota West 16 10 21 26 — 73