Rochester, MN - For the RCTC men's basketball team the road to New York and the NJCAA National Championship begins this Friday at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Anoka will host the 2018 Region XIII basketball tournament featuring 8 of the top teams from the Region and the MCAC. Tipoff for the tournament is at 1:00pm as Rainy River (#1 from the North) takes on Minnesota West (#4 from the South). Game two features the RCTC Yellowjackets (#2 South) vs Central Lakes (#3 North) at 3:00pm. The evening session features South #1 Anoka Ramsey taking on North #4 Mesabi Range at 5:00pm and North #2 Vermillion vs South #3 Riverland at 7:00pm.
The Yellowjackets hold a 6-3 record against the field. They are 1-1 versus: Riverland, Anoka Ramsey, and MN West; 1-0 versus Central Lakes, Mesabi Range, and Vermillion. They have yet to play Rainy River this season. RCTC's defeated Central Lakes (their opening round opponent) back on December 1st at RCTC by a score of 90-66.
The Yellowjackets have had another outstanding season this year as Coach LaPlante's squad finished the regular season with a 22-5 overall record and a record of 11-3 in league play. The Jackets went 12-2 at home, 9-3 on the road, and won their sole neutral court contest. The Yellowjackets enter the Regional Tournament as one of the top statistical teams in the Region. They average 83.6 points per contest which is good for 4th in the league, and shoot the ball at a 47.2% clip, also good for 4th in the league.
It is on the defensive side of the ball where RCTC has shined this season. They are holding opponents to only 40.1% shooting from the field (good enough for 2nd in the MCAC), They are forcing 18.1 turnovers per game, also good for 2nd. Their 69.4 points per game allowed ranks 4th in the league and they hold a 6.9 rebounding margin which is #3 in the league. The combination of a top 2 defense and top 4 offense has made the Jackets a tough team to play all season long.
The combination of defense on offensive capability is due to buy-in according to sophomore Tyree Caruthers. He says "Holding each other accountable for everything we do, and having all of the guys buy-in and trust each other even when things aren't going well has been a key to the season so far." Tevin Killeen adds, "The bond that we have established on and off the court has been a real key to our success, there are no individuals out there it is about the group."
Though it is clear that team comes first, there have been a number of individuals who have had outstanding seasons for the Jackets. Sophomore, Jumah'Ri Turner is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the Region. Turner is 2nd in points per game with 21.9 points and 3rd in total points scored. Turner is also 1st in Free Throw % hitting on 84% from the charity stripe. Tevin Killeen is 7th in the MCAC in 3 point field goal percentage at 41.9%, and Michael Cronelious is 5th in overall field goal percentage at 54.2%. Tyree Caruthers is 14th in total rebounding.
The guys are committed to each others success and that clearly comes from the top. Jumah'Ri Turner said " Coach Laplante and the rest of the staff really push us to our potential and to accomplish more than we even see within ourselves. They tell us what we need to hear not just what we want to hear and that really builds trust within the team." Killeen added " They prepare us for our future, whether that is continuing on to a four year school or moving on into the 'real world'". Caruthers stated "The coached really do a great job of building a culture of the team before any one individual, and that hels us hold each other accountable".
The Yellowjackets are excited about the opportunity to make a long run at the Regional tournament but they also know that it is one game at a time and they are focused on Central Lakes. "We know that if we buy-in to the system, execute the game plan, and take care of the little things the results will come." concluded Caruthers.
Good luck to the Yellowjackets as they start play on Friday. The tournament continues into Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will be the semi-final contests and Sunday will play host to the Championship and 3rd place games.