NJCAA women's basketball championships: RCTC shakes off slow start to advance to Friday's semifinals
A solid second half and overall effort from Olivia Christianson has the Yellowjackets two wins away from a national title.
ROCHESTER — The Rochester Community and Technical College women's basketball team is now two wins away from a national title.
The No. 3 seeded Yellowjackets shook off a bit of rust early on, before using good team defense and a solid game from Olivia Christianson to knock off No. 6 Community College of Rhode Island 67-52 in a NJCAA Division III women's championship quarterfinal on Thursday night at RCTC.
The Yellowjackets (25-1) will now move on to play No. 7 Riverland Community College, from Austin, in a semifinal at 7 p.m. on Friday. Riverland upset No. 2 Fulton-Mnotgomery 72-60 in its quarterfinal.
At first, it looked like perhaps RCTC was the one on upset alert in its quarterfinal.
Having not played a game in 18 days, the Yellowjackets struggled early.
They missed 15 of their first 17 shots and had just two points in the opening six minutes as they struggled to hit shots against Rhode Island's matchup-zone. Yet, Rhode Island's offense wasn't doing much better, as it led just 12-6 with 2:18 left.
Still, RCTC managed just eight points in the first quarter and although, the second quarter was better, the normally high-flying Yellowjackets couldn't get into a rhythm. They finished the first half under 22% from the field, yet only found themselves trailing 29-26 entering the half. It was a win.
"I reminded them at halftime, we just held them to 29 points," coach Jason Bonde said. "We're down three and we shot 21% in the first half. They shot 41%. I'm like ladies, we are there. We are just a few shots away."
RCTC took Bonde's words to heart.
The Yellowjackets came out with much more energy as was noticeable on the defensive end and soon the offense was flowing again. RCTC shot 7 of 12 from the field, thanks in part to Christianson, who was stellar after missing her first four shots of the game. The sophomore was 4 of 7 from the floor with 11 points in the quarter, with the final three coming on a three-point play as part of a 7-0 run late in the third to take a 49-41 lead. Christianson finished with a game-high 23 points.
"Basketball is always about runs," Bonde said. "It comes down to can you limit their runs. We then are often able to go on our typical runs."
That 7-0 run ballooned to a 14-0 run to give RCTC its largest lead of the game at the time. Rhode Island was able to trim it down to 60-52 with about four minutes left, but the RCTC defense was too strong, limiting RI to under 38% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers.
RCTC also outrebounded RI 43-29, mostly in part because of Kandace Sikkink, who finished with an impressive 19 rebounds to go along with 14 points for the double-double. Myia Ruzek scored nine of her 18 points in the fourth quarter and RCTC was able to ride it from there.
Next up now for RCTC is the semifinals, which will take place at 7 p.m. Friday at RCTC. It should be a good one as Riverland handed RCTC its only loss in the NCJCAA Region XIIIA Championship just three weeks ago.
"Riverland is just 45 minutes away from us," Bonde said. "We recruit the same kids. He recruited my kids, I recruited his. Tomorrow night should be a lot of fun and we expect a good crowd, 7 p.m. game. We are excited for it."
Riverland 72, Fulton-Montgomery 60
No. 7 Riverland (23-5) was able to pull ahead late and pull of the upset of No. 2 Fulton-Montgomery (21-1).
Riverland outscored F-M by 15 in the second after initially trailing by three at intermission.
Reanna Schmitt led Riverland with a 25 points and 19 rebounds for the monster double-double. She shot 9 of 11 from the field as well. She was instrumental too, in helping Riverland hold F-M to under 37% shooting from the field, recording six blocks on the night.
Owens 70, Anoka-Ramsey 52
Through tough defense and a double-double from Cece Bell, No. 1 Owens (20-5) breezed into Friday's semifinals where they will take on Minnesota West, which beat No. 4 Monroe-Bronx in a quarterfinal.
Anoka-Ramsey (21-10) finished just 17 of 62 (27.4%) from the floor, including 5-for-24 (20.8%) from beyond the arc. Owens was able to get out to an 11-1 start and never look back.
Owens was led by Bell, who finished with 22 points, thanks to an 8-for-13 effort from the free free throw line to go along with 13 rebounds — seven of which were offensive. Mikayla Kanenwisher added 13 points and Kimori Morris chipped in eight.
Minnesota West 89, Monroe College-Bronx 75
The aforementioned Minnesota West squad knocked off Monroe College, which had the bye into the quarters.
Yet, MW (29-4) used a big first quarter, outscoring Monroe (24-8) 30-14 en route to the victory.
Tia Murray (24 points), Olivia Hayenga (22) and Madisyn Huisman (21) all finished above the 20-point mark for an MW offense that shot nearly 50% from the field and was 22 of 28 from the free throw line. Hayenga (14 rebounds) and Murray (12) also recorded double-doubles as MW outrebounded Monroe 37-25.
Ariella Johnson led Monroe with 23 points off the bench.