Riverland upsets No. 1 RCTC in women's region championship game
RCTC will now have to wait to see if it lands an at-large berth in the NJCAA Division III National Tournament.
COON RAPIDS — If the Rochester Community and Technical College women's basketball team is going to earn a national tournament berth, it will have to be as an at-large berth.
In a stunning turn of events, the Yellowjackets fell short in the Region XIIIA Tournament championship game on Sunday. Ninth-ranked Riverland Community College out of Austin upset RCTC 67-60 to win the region title and earn the automatic national qualifying bid from Region XIIIA.
RCTC came into the game unbeaten at 24-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation among NJCAA Division III women's basketball teams. The Yellowjackets had beaten Riverland 84-47 and 74-52 during the regular season.
“Riverland played a heck of a game and held us to 60 points so they deserved it,” RCTC coach Jason Bonde said.
The Yellowjackets (24-1) are still likely to receive on of the four at-large berths available for the national tournament. RCTC is the host site of the tournament, which is March 15-18.
“I would hope that we’ve done enough throughout the year to get one of those four at-large bids,” Bonde said. “With us hosting it as well, I would think that would have something to do with it because they do want crowds there.”
Surging Riverland (21-5) won its sixth straight game and was able to withstand RCTC's defensive pressure. The Blue Devils had a modest 16 turnovers in the game and controlled the boards 48-36.
Savannah Longhoma led Riverland with 20 points while Reana Schmitt, a 6-foot freshman from Austin, had 15 points and 17 rebounds.
The game was tied 29-29 at the half. Riverland took the lead with a 18-13 run in the third quarter and then held on over the final 10 minutes of play.
The Blue Devils were even missing a starter due to injury.
“They made everything and we had to work for everything we got and it just wasn’t enough,” Bonde said.
RCTC struggled with a rare off-game shooting from the field. The Yellowjackets shot just 30.9% (21-for-68) from the floor. Riverland shot 42.9% (24-for-56).
Myia Ruzek led RCTC with 22 points but Jada James was the only other player in double figures. James had 13 points and nine rebounds. High-scoring Olivia Christianson was held to seven points. Kandace Sikkink had eight points and six rebounds while Ravyn Miles had five assists.
Bonde said the decision on the at-large berths, along with seeding, is likely to be announced on Monday, March 6.
“I’ve got to get in a bid to be considered and to talk about our resume, what we’ve been able to do all year,” Bonde said. “So we’ll see what happens.”
The Yellowjackets have dominated foes most the season and lead the nation in a number of categories, including scoring per game.
Both of the top-seeded teams lost in the Region XIII Tournament. In Region XIIIB, Anoka-Ramsey Community College secured a national berth by defeating No. 3 Minnesota West Community College in the title game.