AUSTIN -- Riverland Community College got defensive on Wednesday and it paid off for the Blue Devils.
Riverland puts the clamps on Rochester Community and Technical College with the game on the line and came away with a hard-fought 65-61 victory in men's junior college basketball.
"These are just two good teams and it's always a grind," Riverland coach Derek Hahn said.
The Yellowjackets and Blue Devils are getting used to playing nail-biters. Riverland had posted a narrow 71-70 victory over RCTC less than two weeks ago. And this game also came down to the final seconds with Riverland again coming out on top.
“They’re long and athletic,” RCTC coach Brian LaPlante said. “We’ve just got to find the way. … I don’t have a magic bullet. It’s death by a thousand cuts. It’s not just one thing.”
It was the host Blue Devils who found a way on Wednesday. Cleveland Bedgood had two straight buckets to put Riverland up 61-56 with 1:40 left. Devyn Frye had a hoop for RCTC to cut the gap to three points with 50 seconds left.
The Yellowjackets forced a turnover and had a chance to tie the game. But Riverland got a defensive stop, forcing RCTC to shoot an air ball as the shot clock expired.
“We didn’t get a shot and that’s pretty much what happened at our place,” LaPlante said. "That was pretty much it."
Bedgood followed with two free throws with 10 seconds left for a 63-58 lead.
“Cleveland made some big plays down the stretch,” Hahn said of the sophomore from Miami. “That’s what leaders do.”
Elijah Flenorl got RCTC within two with a 3-pointer with three seconds left. But Lajarrion Spinks, who led Riverland with 18 points, sealed the win with two free throws with less than a second to play.
“We had a couple of guys who really stepped up,” Hahn said. “I thought Lajarrion Spinks in the first half was settling for outside jump shots. In the second half he really made it a priority to get to the rim and play the way he can at 6-5.”
Quentin Williams led RCTC with 16 points and the guard was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. But the Blue Devils put the clamps on Jerome Cunningham. The 6-4 forward had scored 28 points in the first meeting against Riverland, but he was held to eight points and nine shots this time around.
“We have to look at things and see how we can help him out a little more,” LaPlante said. “Back to the drawing board here.”
“Deng Jal did a really nice job,” Hahn said. “He’s big (6-foot-9) and he did a nice job of chesting up and guarding him (Cunningham).”
Riverland (10-1, 5-0 MCAC Southern Division) battled back from a 31-24 deficit at the half. RCTC (3-5, 3-2 Southern Division) had closed the half with a 12-0 run.
“We did not have a good first half offensively,” Hahn said. “And the one thing that was key for us is that our defense kept us in the game.”
RCTC led 44-36 in the second half before Riverland used a 12-0 run of its own to take a 48-44 lead with 9:55 left. After that the game was tight the rest of the way. The Blue Devils were able to force 10 turnovers in the second half to help pull out the win.
“It was a good college basketball game,” LaPlante said. “It just came down to, we missed a couple of point-blank shots.
“That’s a good team,” he added of Riverland. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’ll keep grinding.”
Riverland 65, RCTC 61
Keivonte Watts 8 P, 5 R, 1 3-PT; Devyn Frye 13 P, 4 A, 3 S; Elijah Flenorl 10 P, 2 3-PT; Quentin Williams 13 P, 3 3-PT; Jerome Cunningham 8 P, 8 R; Stephen Olander 4 P; Quest McCrimon 3 P, 1 3-PT.
Jamari Magee 5 P, 1 3-PT; Cleveland Bedgood 11 P, 1 3-PT; Lajarrion Spinks 18 P, 4 R; Joe Burgos 3 P, 1 3-PT; Deng Jal 5 P, 6 R, 1 3-PT; Keyshawn Payne 1 P, 4 R; Derrick Ousley 2 P; Travyon Smith 2 P; Ethan Clavero 6 P, 2 3-PT; Dominik Bangu 12 P, 5 R, 2 3-PT.
Halftime: RCTC 31, RIV 24.
Free throws: RCTC 11-15, RIV 12-14. Field goals: RCTC 21-50, RIV 23-55.
3-pointers: RCTC 8-18, RIV 7-17. Rebounds: RCTC 23, RIV 32. Turnovers: RCTC 16, RIV 16.