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Blue Devils close in on state tourney berth

Riverland beats Rigewater, now 5-4 in division play

By Scott A. Kolb

skolb@postbulletin.com

Riverland took one step closer to a state tournament berth in men’s basketball with a 78-73 win over Ridgewater.

It wasn’t the dazzling offensive display put on a week before in the upset over Minneapolis, but the Riverland Blue Devils got it done on Saturday afternoon.

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Battling sickness and a pesky opponent, the Blue Devils survived their test and climbed to 5-4 in the Minnesota Community College Conference, South Division, with the season sweep of the Ridgewater Warriors.

Balance was once again the key to success for the Blue Devils as they had four players in double figures. Eddie Jensen led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Derek Roeder added four 3-pointers and Mike Polis was also in double figures.

DiJon Reese had only half of his point total in the wild win over Minneapolis, but he adroitly distributed the ball to his teammates with 15 assists on the day. This poise on the court helped the home team get a win after falling behind in the final minutes.

"We had a couple of guys who were sick and Ridgewater isn’t a bad team, they had some tough match-ups for us," Riverland coach Dan Swift said. "We had to search for strength and claw and grab to get this done. The sign of a good team is when you win on an off day."

The Blue Devils led by five points at halftime and they couldn’t shake the Warriors. David Johnson, who is leading the division in scoring, kept Ridgewater in the game with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Johnson buried a trey with nine minutes left to bring the Warriors to within 57-55.

Time and again, the Blue Devils had to answer a run by the Warriors. On this day, they looked to Jensen and he got it done in the paint. The game was tied at 57-all, then Jensen scored, and it was tied again at 59-all, when Jensen scored to give the Blue Devils back the lead. Jensen, who plays center at 6-foot-4, willed his team to win.

"They have to be 10-feet tall to play with me," Jensen said. "I just kept going hard to the basket and good things happened."

Despite the dominance of Jensen in the lane, Ridgewater tried to ruin the fun for the home team with a shot from beyond the arc. Geoffrey Nelson hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left and Ridgewater had its first lead of the game.

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It would stay tight until the final horn. Roeder, who had four treys in the first half, hit his first shot of the second half to give the Blue Devils the lead with 2:40 to play. He then hit another jumper, off an assist from Reese, a short time later as it see-sawed the rest of the way.

"I was getting tired and tried to focus on my defense, so we could finish it out," Roeder said. "I can’t say enough about DiJon, he takes over and finds the open guy."

Reese gave the Blue Devils the lead for good when he drove the lane and scored with 1:33 to play. Reese and Jensen would score the last eight points for the Blue Devils (9-12, 5-4) as they remained unbeaten at home in divisional play.

RIVERLAND 78, RIDGEWATER 73

RIDGEWATER (73)

Allen Huselid 15, Timothy Drier 0, David Johnson 24, Timothy Mattern 6, Geoffrey Nelson 10, Travis Schultz 16, Chris LeTendre 2.

RIVERLAND (78)

DiJon Reese 15, Derek Roeder 16, Ryan Barthels 2, Edwyn Jensen 22, Matt Kraft 3, Chris Stringer 6, Mike Polis 14.

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Halftime score — Riverland 39, Ridgewater 34.

Three-pointers — Ridgewater 7-17 (Huselid 3, Johnson 2, Nelson 2). Riverland 5-16 (Roeder 4, Reese 1).

Free throws — Ridgewater 6-11, Riverland 3-6.

Rebounds — Ridgewater 32 (Johnson 16); Riverland 36 (Jensen 10, Polis 9).

Turnovers — Ridgewater 20, Riverland 15.

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