Yellowjackets don’t seize opportunity for upset
By Pat Ruff
Outrebounded, outhustled and outshot.
That was more than enough to cost the Rochester Community and Technical College men’s basketball team as it came up empty in its bid for an upset of North Iowa Area Community College in its home opener Wednesday. The final score was 79-65.
NIACC, a school that offers athletic scholarships, entered the contest ranked 12th in the country in Division II junior college. RCTC does not offer scholarships and is a Division III school.
Still, Yellowjackets coach Brian LaPlante didn’t see this as an unfair fight to begin the night. And when the evening was over, he still didn’t see why his team didn’t put up a better fight.
What he did see was an overall lack of determination by his guys, who by his own admission are a bit undersized. Still, he expected better.
He especially expected more on the boards, where his team was outdone 48-32 in total rebounds, including 15-9 on the offensive end.
"Rebounding was a problem," said LaPlante, whose Yellowjackets slipped to 2-2 overall. "We use four guys on the perimeter much of the time, but we still have to figure out a way to rebound better (despite that lack of inside players). It was disappointing."
Really, RCTC was only disappointing for one half — the second one. The Yellowjackets, behind excellent perimeter shooting and playmaking from 6-foot-3 freshman guard/forward Josh Hagan, trailed just 30-29 at intermission. Hagan, a Kingsland High School graduate, scored seven of his 15 points in the first half, when he also managed to penetrate and get teammates easy looks at the basket.
After that, however, NIAC took over with its superior size, strength and shooting abilities. Besides all of those rebounds, NIAC watched 6-4, 190-pound sophomore Max Papendieck become unsolvable for RCTC. Papendieck, who finished with a game-high 24 points, had all but two of them in the second half. He finished the night hitting 11 of 20 shots from the field, two of them 3-pointers.
RCTC was still very much in the game until about the 12-minute mark of the second half. But after three straight baskets by Papendieck, one by forward Kjay Jackson, and then a rebound hoop by Papendieck, it had gone from trailing by two to down seven. It was the beginning of the end for RCTC, which was then swept away by a bunch of NIAC second-chance baskets, and a now deadly fastbreak led by 5-5 speed-demon point guard James Henderson.
Still, what was most on the RCTC players’ minds was all of those rebounds that eluded them. They know they can and need to do better there.
"Size shouldn’t matter that much," said RCTC 6-3 forward Tyler Speer. "What counts is what’s in (the heart). What we have to do is just outwork everyone and come together better as a team. We’ll get there."
RCTC was led by 6-7 sophomore Kurt Koening. The only player on RCTC’s roster over 6-4, Koening totaled 17 points and nine rebounds. Josh Reynolds, a Rochester John Marshall graduate, added 11 points.
RCTC plays host to Iowa Lakes on Dec. 1.