RCTC women turn back Minneapolis
Jordan Vavra indicated that her Rochester Community and Technical College women’s basketball team "just wanted to be happy again."
Wednesday night, the Yellowjackets got their wish. They got it by winning, something the national defending champions hadn’t done in their previous two games.
This wasn’t just any win, either. It was a signature and pay-back one, as they slipped past Minneapolis Community and Technical College 60-59. On Jan. 9 in Minneapolis, it was the Marauders who’d eked out an overtime win over RCTC.
MCTC entered Wednesday 7-0 in the Southern Division of the Minnesota Community Athletic Conference, 20-2 overall, and ranked fourth in the nation.
It was those lofty marks that made RCTC’s win all the more satisfying.
"We needed a win; we needed to enjoy the game again," said Vavra, whose RCTC team of a year ago — one which graduated a batch of star players — finished unbeaten and as national champions.
That the Yellowjackets (4-3, 13-5) managed to come away a winner Wednesday was in good part due to their defense, and the thievery of Vavra in particular.
RCTC was clinging to a 60-59 lead with just under a minute left following an inside basket by Michelle O’Malley. The Yellowjackets spent the final minute beautifully hounding the Marauders and forcing them into two crucial turnovers.
The first came thanks to Vavra perfectly reading the expected move of star Minneapolis guard Briana Blackhawk (22 points). Blackhawk, who resembles former University of Minnesota star Lindsey Whalen with her aggressive ability to get to the basket with spin moves and general craftiness, was trying to get there one last time with 15 seconds left.
Vavra read the spin this time, switching off her own player and reaching with two hands for the ball just as Blackhawk was beginning her quick turn toward the basket. It was a clean pick-off, giving RCTC the ball back, still clinging to that 60-59 lead.
"I knew (Blackhawk) was going to be the one who’d try to score, and I knew she was going to do that spin move again," Vavra said. "So I left my girl and took (the ball) away from her."
After RCTC followed that by missing on a one-and-one free throw chance, it had to lock down on Minneapolis one more time defensively. And one more time it was up to it, again turning the Marauders over.
That ended it, giving the RCTC player the largest smiles they’ve worn all season.
It was the Yellowjackets’ defense, above all, that did it for them.
"We did a great job of rotating defensively tonight and not leaving the ball," said RCTC coach Steve Hucke, whose team limited the much taller Marauders to 41 percent field-goal shooting (RCTC shot just 31 percent).
But the biggest statistic of the night was turnovers. While RCTC committed just six of them, Minneapolis lost the ball 20 times. RCTC freshman center Whitney Fick led the way there, with three steals. Vavra had two.
Offensively, RCTC was led by sophomore forward Maria Gangelhoff with 19 points. O’Malley and Brittni Mayer had nine each, while Fick totaled eight.
Briana Blackhawk 22, Sierra Howard 10, Erin Wahl 9, Krystal Queen 3, Natalye Horne 4, Brittany Monio 2, LaVera Jeffrie 9, Sondra Jones 0.
Maria Gangelhoff 19, Victoria Ledahl 3, Jordan Vavra 5, Michelle O’Malley 9, Nikki Borkhuis 7, Krystie Sell 0, Brittni Mayer 9, Whitney Fick 8.
Halftime:RCTC 31, Minneapolis 30.
Free throws:Minneapolis 10-14, RCTC 10-16. Rebounds: Minneapolis 58, RCTC 34. 3-point goals:Minneapolis 1-10 (Blackhawk 1), RCTC 6-20 (Mayer 3, Ganglehoff 1, Ledahl 1, O’Malley 1. Field goals:Minneapolis 24-58, RCTC 22-72. Turnovers:Minneapolis 20, RCTC 6.