Coon Rapids, MN - The RCTC men's basketball team knew it was going to be the little things that helped them be successful in the NJCAA Region XIII tournament this weekend. In their opening game it was 20 little things that made the biggest difference: 20 made freethrows on 24 attempts to be specific. Those 20 made freethrows gave the Yellowjackets an 8 point advantage from the line and proved key in their come from behind 85-82 win over Central Lakes in the Region Quarterfinals. The win for the Yellowjackets (22-5) sets up a semifinal showdown against Southern Division rival MN West on Saturday. MN West, who knocked of North #1 Rainy River on Friday are 1-1 against the Jackets this season.
RCTC started of hot taking an early 8-4 lead but then the first half was all Raiders as they lead by 7 at one point before settling for a 44-41 lead at the half. RCTC's troubles in the first half were caused in large part to early foul trouble for staters Tevin killeen and Michael Cornelious. The Yellowjackets also struggled from the field in the first half, shooting only 38%. Ben Opsahl played key minutes in the half and scored 9 first half points to keep the Yellowjackets close. The Raiders shot 55% from the field in the half.
The second half proved to be a back and forth affair as both teams shot at a 48% clip and played pressure defense. The Jackets appeared to seize control late in the game as they built a 6 point lead with with 6 minutes remaining. Central Lakes would not go away however, and fueled by the play of Keonte Jenkins who poured in 28 points on the night, Central Lakes tied the game with under 3 minutes to play. THIS is where it got exciting. RCTC took a 3 point lead and had the ball with 23.5 seconds to go. After a timeout, and with an opportunity to run out the clock the Yellowjackets turned the ball over to Central Lakes. After a Central Lakes timeout, RCTC elected to play tough defense along the three point line and forced Jenkins to drive to the bucket for an easy lay-up. On the ensuing inbounds pass RCTC committed an endline violation and turned the ball over back to Central Lakes. With 4.5 seconds to go, after yet another timeout, and with RCTC clinging to a 1 point lead, Central Lakes Jenkins inbounded the ball off of a Yellowjacket players back and seemed to have a layup, but the tough reverse fell of the rim and into the Yellowjackets hands where CLC was forced to foul. With only .5 seconds left, RCTC knocked down the two free throws to secure the 85-82 win.
The Jackets were lead by Jumah'Ri Turner's 24 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Naa'il Mahdi dropped in 16 points, and Opsahl poured in 13. Tyree Caruthers contributed a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
As a team the Yellowjackets outrebounded the Raiders 40-28. Once again the key to the game was at the free throw line. RCTC hit 20-24 for 83% while CLC hit on 12-18 for 66%.
The semi-final game between RCTC and MN West will tip-off at Anoka-Ramsey at 1:00pm on Saturday.