by Jason Olson
Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s men’s and women’s basketball programs are once again poised to make a final push to the NJCAA Division III nationals.
Anoka-Ramsey is the site where 14 community college basketball teams will play March 2-4 for a place at the national tournament.
The Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) State/Region XIII Men’s Tournament will feature the Golden Rams and seven other teams from Minnesota. Seedings haven’t been released but the championship is set for 2 p.m. March 4.
Anoka-Ramsey’s women’s team will compete in the Region XIIIA tournament March 3-4. The Golden Rams open the tournament at 6 p.m. March 3 with the final slated to tip-off at 5 p.m. March 4.
The Golden Rams’ nationally top-ranked women’s program completed its march to a second perfect 12-0 record in the South Division of the MCAC.
Coach Dave DeWitt has the defending national champion Golden Rams poised to make that final push to another successful finish to the season.
“We’re a different team than last year in players, strategy and I feel we’re a bit better defensively,” he said. Comparisons to last season are few as this year’s team has been ranked No. 1 most of the season. “I don’t know if we’re any better than previous teams, but we’re going to have to defend and rebound well to have a chance and those are our strengths,” DeWitt said.
Trademarks for the current group are the tenacity on defense in how they constantly pressure to force bad decisions.
“We’ll extend to full court and change it up,” DeWitt said.
On the offensive side, freshman Maria Loughlin, a Rogers native, was named MCAC South Division Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks earlier in February.
“She became more consistent,” DeWitt said. “She plays extremely well and has good instincts, is fundamentally sound and just needed to become more consistnent as a perimeter shooter and now she leads the league. She’s pretty versatile and has a good mid-range game and can get inside.”
The 5-foot, 7-inch forward averaged 22 points, 5.5 steals and 1.5 assists to help the Golden Rams earn a 23-2 record and the South Division title. She made 7-15 three pointers and 9-10 free throws in two games during the Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 weeks.
She leads the league in three-point shooting (.423); third in scoring average (15.4); fourth in free throws (.750) and fourth in steals (2.6) per game.
Teammate Tamarra Shorter leads the conference in steals (107) and rebounds (11.7 per game) to go along with her 13.8 scoring average in 25 games.
DeWitt said she’s the defensive presence the Rams need.
“She still causes havoc defensively. She has good explosiveness and continues to have a good, solid year,” he said.
Acompanying Shorter and Loughlin has been Blaine-native Allison Ballstadt in her sophomore season as the starting point guard.
“She hasn’t scored as much for us, but she’s defended more and we asked her to play point [guard] now and does well,” DeWitt said.