No. 1 RCTC women take aim at securing a region title and earning another national berth

Feb. 29—ROCHESTER — Rochester Community and Technical College is ready to begin defense of its Division III NJCAA national championship in women's basketball.

The Yellowjackets waltzed to the national title during the 2022-23 season and they began the postseason this year as the No. 1-ranked team in Division III.

RCTC has won 12 of its past 13 games and takes a 20-3 record into the five-team MCAC State/Region 13A Tournament this week with a national berth on the line.

The state/region tournament will be held this Friday-Sunday at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids. The winning team earns an automatic berth in the upcoming Division III NJCAA Tournament Tournament. The runner-up is also likely to receive an at-large berth.

"I would hope that being ranked No. 1 in the country would help that, if something does happen," RCTC coach Jason Bonde said.

The tournament begins with a play-in game between Riverland Community College and Minnesota North College-Mesabi Range on Friday. RCTC faces the winner at 10 a.m. Saturday. That semifinal winner will face the Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Central Lake College winner in the championship game at noon Sunday.

The MCAC has four of the top five ranked teams in Division III of the NJCAA.

RCTC is ranked No. 1, Minnesota West Community and Technical College is No. 2, Northland Community and Technical College is No. 3 and Anoka-Ramsey is No. 5. Minnesota West and Northland are both playing in Region 13B.

The Yellowjackets are battle tested and have only had one loss to a Division III NJCAA school and that was to Minnesota West late in the season.

"I think the girls are ready to play," Bonde said. "They've been tested throughout the year and they're ready to try and make a run at this."

RCTC has plenty of incentive to win the state/region title. The Yellowjackets want to maintain their top overall ranking and land a strong seed at the national tournament, which is again being held in Rochester.

"If you win your region it puts you in a good position to — on paper — have the easiest path to the (national) championship game," Bonde said. "You just try to set yourself up for the best possible seed you can going into the national tournament if you win both games."

The Yellowjackets currently have eight healthy players. Sophomore Sophie Andring, a Dover-Eyota grad, suffered an ACL injury in the 16th game of the season. She was averaging 12.9 points per contest.

"She was playing great for us," Bonde said. "Unfortunately you can't control injuries. They just seem to happen when you least expect it."

RCTC averages 78 points per game and allows just 49.7.

The Yellowjackets have had great scoring balance on offense with six healthy players averaging more than nine points per game.

Macaya Copeland leads RCTC in scoring at 16.6 points per game. She is followed by Jada James (12.4), Austin's Cassidy Shute (12.3), Aniyah Reuben (9.8), Janae Bennett (9.3) and Chatfield's Kara Goetzinger (9.2).

James averages 8.1 rebounds per game and Goetzinger averages 7.3. Copeland also leads the team in assists (4.7 per game) and steals (3.1). As a team, the Yellowjackets average 18 assists per contest.

"We share the ball and we play the right way," Bonde said. "We play together and it's worked for us."

The Yellowjackets could be on a collision course with Anoka-Ramsey in the state/region title game.

A-R has held RCTC to 58 and 54 points in two regular-season games, which the Yellowjackets won by four and five points.

"They've held us to some of our lowest point totals in games and we both play really good defense," Bonde said.

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