Rochester, MN - The Rochester Community and Technical College women's basketball team heads to Worthington, MN this weekend to compete in the 2018 Region XIIIA Basketball Championships. The Yellowjackets (the #2 seed) play the second game of the opening round at 4:00pm on Saturday versus #3 seeded Anoka-Ramsey. The tournament tips-off at 2:00pm with the host (and top seed), MN West Lady Jays taking on the #4 seeded Ridgewater Warriors.
RCTC has had an amazing season in 2018, finishing with an overall record of 21-6 and earning a runner-up finish in the MCAC South with a 12-2 mark. The Yellowjackets are 4-2 against teams in the tournament. The Jackets are 2-0 against their opening round opponent (Anoka Ramsey). RCTC won 83-62 at Anoka on January 27, and then downed the Golden Rams 76-49 at home on February 21st. Versus the other side of the bracket, RCTC fell to the top seeded Lady Jays twice (61-69 at home and 68-72 on the road). The Yellowjackets defeated Ridgewater twice, once on January 17th 95-51 at home, and then again at Ridgewater on February 10th by the score of 82-65.
RCTC's 21 wins this season matches the third hightest win total for the Jackets, trailing only Coach Hucke's 34-0 national championship team in 2008-09 and the 2007-08 teams 26 wins. RCTC sophomore's Anika Gardner, Jaylsa Cutting, and Nautika Kotero say thart the teams "on court success has a ton to do with how close they are off of the court. Because we are so close and know each other so well, things just seem to flow for us when we get into a rhythm during the game".
The Yellowjackets have been lead all season by the foursome of: Jaylsa Cutting, Nautika Kotero, Gracel Riley and Olivia Haug. Haug, a freshman, is averaging a double-double on the season with 14.4 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game. She is #2 in the league in rebounding and #17 in points per game. Grace Riley is RCTC's sharpshooter from behind the arc. She is averaging 16.6 points per game, good enough for 10th in the league and is shooting an amazing 45% from 3 point range. She is ranked #1 in the MCAC in 3 point percentage by a wide margin. Kotero is near the top of the MCAC in a number of offensive and defensive categories. She is averaging 14.9 points per game (15th), shooting 38% from 3 (3rd), 5.9 assists per game (3rd), and 2.5 steals per game (7th). Cutting is also averaging in double figures (10.2 points per game) and is ranked 11th in the league in both steals and assists.
As expected based on a 21 win season the Yellowjackets are near the top of the MCAC in nearly every statistical category. Offensively RCTC is #3 in scoring with 75.0 points per game, #4 in shooting percentage at 42.4%, #1 in 3 point shooting percentage (34.5%), and #1 in assists per game (21.3). On the defensive side of the ball RCTC is #1 in rebounding and #2 in steals.
A number of the players point to Coach Steve Hucke as the driving force behind their success this year. Jalysa Cutting says "Coach never gives up on us even during the tough times, he believes in us", Nautika Kotero echoes this when she says "He sees so much in us that we don't see in ourselves, and he always brings out the best in us as a team and as individuals". Anika Gardner says that Coach Hucke "Has a passion not only for the game itself, but to see us succeed!"
The Yellowjackets know that there is a good chance that the road to the NJCAA tournament runs not only physically through MN West as the host of the tournament, but also through the Ladyjays in the championship game. RCTC though first is focused on the Golden Rams in their opener, as Cutting said "there are no easy games at this point of the season everyone is in the Regional for a reason, and we have to focus on Saturday's game first, we aren't even thinking about day 2 yet". When asked what it was going to take to bring back the Region Championship Kotero said "We have to stay mentally focused and always thinking about the next play, don't worry about mistakes that may be made and play our game. If we do that we will be successful."
"As Coach Hucke always says to us it is all about the three D's: 'Desire, Dedication, and Determination'".