by Jason Olson
For the second year in a row, Anoka-Ramsey Community College men’s basketball team’s hopes of a national tournament appearance were cut short with the same 22-8 overall record.
This year the Golden Rams succombed to Central Lakes 65-51 in the semifinals of the MCAC/Region XIII tournament, played on the Golden Rams home court in Coon Rapids March 2-4. The loss ended hopes of moving on which made the third place game more of a game of pride than anything else.
“The goal of every team is to get to the national tournament,” Anoka-Ramsey coach Ron Larson said. “We were hopeful. We knew things had to go the right way too.”
Larson said the four top programs all season won their opening round games to reach the semifinals including: Fergus Falls, Rochester, Central Lakes and Anoka-Ramsey were pretty even so it came down to match-ups and who performed better under pressure.
“We’re happy with our season,” Larson said about the Rams who had two extended winning streaks of seven and eight games and was 5-3 against nationally-ranked teams. “We felt they competed and played well against Rochester in a game where they were playing for pride and we have a number of guys coming back.”
Anoka-Ramsey graduates Antone Darrington and J.J. Butler but returns All-District team members Lemuel Doe and David Hicks and Chris Harmon among others.
“We’re optimistic that if those guys coming back, work well this summer that we’ll be in a good position next season,” Larson said.
The Golden Rams defense held the opposition to under 40 percent shooting 18 times and under 70 points in eight of the final 10 games of the season.
Anoka-Ramsey recovered from the loss to beat the defending NJCAA Division III national champions from Rochester Community and Technical College in the third place game 83-56 March 4.
The Golden Rams led 27-26 at the break as both teams struggled to make shots in the first half.
Anoka-Ramsey built a double digit lead early in the second half and continued to play strong defense in what has been a trademark of the squad this season.
Behind a 56-30 run in the second half, the Golden Rams shot 66.7 percent from the field while Rochester continued to struggle and shot just 28.2 percent.
French exchange student Lucas Barraud led the team with a career-high 19 points, including 5-5 from the free throw line.
Jimmy Sauser had eight points and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds while Henry Breedlove continued to dominate the paint with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Anoka-Ramsey opened the tournament with a 73-61 win over Hibbing for its 10th win in 11 games March 2.
Second half shooting by Butler and Lemuel Doe highlighted the Golden Rams efforts to build a 12 point advantage with six minutes remaining. Doe finished with 22 points making 11-12 free throws and Butler scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half including 4-8 from the three point line. Harmon had 16 points and seven rebounds and Breedlove had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Anoka-Ramsey picked up five wins in eight games against nationally ranked teams including a 106-81 win over NJCAA Division II No. 8 ranked Bismark State Dec. 16; 82-81 win over NJCAA Division II No. 16 North Dakota State College of Science; 69-65 win over NJCAA Division III No. 1 Central Lakes Feb. 11; 71-67 win over NJCAA Division II No. 8 Dakota County Tech Feb. 25.
Anoka-Ramsey finished in a three-way for second place in the MCAC Southern Division with an 8-4 record with Fergus Falls and Rochester.