Jan. 1—WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota West women's and mens' basketball teams had to show their tough side Saturday in their New Year's Classic games at Worthington's Center for Health and Wellness.
The women answered the call in a furious fourth quarter, holding back a desperate Iowa Central team 62-50. Later in the day, the Bluejay men gave away heft in their game against a physical Southwestern Community College squad, but they were able to secure a 68-65 win.
Bluejays 68, Southwestern 65
The Bluejays expected a rough, physical Spartans squad, and that's exactly what they got.
Sophomore Devin Tomlinson was the biggest arrow in the Southwestern quiver, a bruiser who pushed and bullied his way for 31 points against a West team that doubled him when he didn't have the ball and tripled him when he did.
West led Southwestern 52-44 with less than 11 minutes left in the game. Seven minutes later the Spartans took the lead. But Minnesota West re-took it and led 59-54 with 2:48 to play. A twisting, driving layup by West's Kong Neyail, with a free throw added, put the score at 62-56. Teammate Brock Bruns grabbed the rebound of a missed Southwestern shot at 1:22 and put it back for 64-58. West played smartly the rest of the way to hold on.
Tomlinson was tough, but the Bluejays were tough enough.
"Just maintain him," Neyail said was West's game plan. "Maintain him the whole way. Just push him out of the paint."
The Bluejays' follow-through on that plan was hit and miss. But their intense defensive effort paid off in the end.
"If we stick together the whole time, trusting each other, believing each other, we could be a dangerous team," said Neyail, whose team improved to 5-9 with the victory. "That's what really helped us win, that was our defense."
Teammate Elijah Williams agreed.
"This is kind of a wake-up call for our team," Williams said. "It was high-intensity for sure. Actually, these last two games. We put the bodies on the line for everybody."
On Friday, Minnesota West's men lost a tight game with Iowa Central not because the defense wasn't strong, but because their shots didn't fall at crucial times in the second half.
They fell on Saturday. Williams led the Bluejays with 20 points. Bie Ruei scored 14, Neyail 11 and Steve Ndumbe 10.
Tomlinson scored 31 points for Southwestern.
Southwestern 33 65
Bluejays 35 68
SOUTHWESTERN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Villanueva 1-4-0-11, Worrell 0-1-2-4, Bussey 0-1-0-2, Baker 2-1-0-8, Tomlinson 1-11-6-31, Davison 0-1-0-2, Dozier 1-1-0-5, Willis 0-1-0-2. Totals 5-21-8-65.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Ruei 2-3-2-14, Bruns 0-1-2-4, Neyail 1-2-4-11, Williams 1-6-5-20, D.Drent 0-3-2-8, Ndumbe 2-1-2-10, Daho 0-0-2-2. Totals 6-16-19-69.
Lady Jays 62, Iowa Central 50
Trailing for the most of the game and unable to turn the tide, the Tritons stepped up their intensity in the fourth quarter. The Lady Jays answered the call, stepping up their own aggressiveness in a contest that saw collisions and floor burns unlike most others.
"They went helter-skelter," head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka described the Tritons. "They just started trapping the ball, and they got loud, and they just kind of got us going."
Her Jays might have "panicked" a bit, she offered. But if they did, they were able to maintain their lead, turning a five-point fourth quarter advantage to 12 at the end.
Freshman Olivia Hayenga, who scored just three points in Thursday's overtime win over NDSCS, scored 26 against Iowa Central. What's more, she was the most active player on the floor in the second half, finishing with six steals to go along with her high-point effort.
When you turn Hayenga's switch, it's hard to find it again to turn it off.
"They were kind of getting out of hand a little bit," the Worthington High School graduate said of the Tritons, "and I think we kind of went with them."
Hayenga did more than that. She was an Energizer bunny, in fact.
"Sometimes I think I've got a lot of energy, and I just seem to run after the ball sometimes even when I don't have to. Sometimes I think I can't calm down," she said.
Hayenga-Hostikka tried to settle all of the Lady Jays down in the second half. Their wildness sometimes led to mistakes.
In the end, the Jays were charged with 23 turnovers, but Iowa Central had 31.
Tia Murray added 11 points for Minnesota West, with six blocked shots and four steals. Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor had eight assists for the winners.
Aleaha Pommer scored 12 points to lead Central, but she scored just two points after intermission.
The win upped West's record to 14-1.
Iowa Central 10 21 40 50
Lady Jays 15 33 49 62
IOWA CENTRAL (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Tendal 1-3-1-10, Bass 0-2-0-4, Hanselman 0-0-1-1, Theiss 1-0-0-3, Scurek 0-2-4-8, Harms 0-1-0-2, Pommer 1-3-3-12, Godfrey 0-1-2-4, Habben 0-1-1-3, Grooms 0-1-1-3. Totals 3-14-13-50.
LADY JAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Murray 0-3-5-11, Peterson 0-2-3-7, Scheitel-Taylor 0-0-1-1, Huisman 0-2-3-7, Hayenga 0-9-8-26, Drapeau 0-1-0-2, DeVries 0-1-0-2, Potter 2-0-0-6. Totals 2-18-20-62.