RCTC gears up for nationals
It's a long drive from Minnesota to New York, so the Rochester Community and Technical College men's basketball team took a stop along the way.
The Yellowjackets left for Delhi, N.Y., on Monday to compete in the NJCAA Division III National Basketball Tournament. The RCTC team stopped in South Bend, Ind., to get in a practice at Notre Dame.
"The kids like the opportunity to practice at a Division I facility," RCTC coach Brian LaPlante said. "It's a good experience for them."
The Yellowjackets hope the extra practice pays off. They begin play on Thursday in the eight-team national event. RCTC, which placed fifth in the nation in 2006, is ranked 11th in the country and takes a 23-5 mark into national play.
The Yellowjackets face No. 2 Sullivan County Community College (31-1) in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Thursday.
The other half of RCTC's bracket is also strong with No. 1 Bergen Community College (32-0) taking on Mountain View College (22-11).
LaPlante said Mountain View's record is deceiving as the Texas school plays strong competition. A team from Texas has reached the finals the last seven years at the national event.
"They're going to be very tough," LaPlante said.
He said the same about first-round foe Sullivan.
"They're high scoring and they're perimeter driven," the coach said. "They shoot the three a lot."
Like RCTC, Sullivan is not real big. RCTC's tallest starter is 6-foot-4 while Sullivan's is 6-5.
"We match up well size-wise," LaPlante said.
Sullivan scores about 84 points a game and gives up 74. RCTC averages 81 and allows just 69 points a game. LaPlante hopes to keep the score on the lower end of those ranges.
"Any time we can hold somebody under 70 points a game, we're winning at about a 95 percent clip," LaPlante said.
Sullivan has a pair of stellar guards in Moses Dayee (17 points, 7.0 assists per game) and Terry Coleman (16 points , 9.0 assists per game).
The Yellowjackets, who have won 14 of their past 17, have relied on superb offensive balance, They feature eight players averaging between eight and 14 points a game.
LaPlante lists four key players as wings Demetrius Williams and David Fritsch, forward Joe Conway of Winona Cotter and center Brandon Milde.
Williams is averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists a game.
"He's a big key," LaPlante said. "We're going to need him to score."
Fritsch of Stewartville is averaging 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals a game.
"We're going to have to have a good floor game from him," LaPlante said.
Conway is averaging nine points and four rebounds a game.
"He's been our defensive stopper," LaPlante said. "We've been putting him on the opponent's best player and that's not going to change."
Milde of Byron is averaging 10 points and five rebounds a game.
"He's give us good inside-outside scoring," LaPlante said. "And he's also been a very good defender for us."
Shiron Williams, who averages nine points and four assists, is the point guard. Kavon Martin (9.0 ppg), Aubrey Rhodes (9.0 ppg) and Logan Drager (8.0 ppg) give the Yellowjackets good depth off the bench.
LaPlante lists Sullivan, Bergen and Mountain View as the teams to beat in the tournament.
"We should be competitive," LaPlante said. "We can't turn the ball over and we have to rebound."