by Jason Olson
Top-ranked and defending national champion Anoka-Ramsey (28-5) punched its ticket to the NJCAA Division III national tournament after downing Rochester Community and Technical College in the Region XIIIA Championship 60-50 March 4.
The Golden Rams now head to Rochester for the national tournament March 15-17 as the top seed.
Anoka-Ramsey (27-2) will make its 12th trip in the past 19 seasons after knocking off Fergus Falls 55-54 in the semifinals March 3 and Rochester CTC 60-50 in the finals March 4.
Fergus Falls continued to give the Golden Rams a lot of trouble as they did in both regular season games, but Anoka-Ramsey managed to pull through with wins 70-55 and 60-42.
The Golden Rams were down by 17 points early in the first half of their meeting in Fergus Falls but cut it to down by five points by halftime before pulling out the 25 point win Jan. 14.
“Fergus Falls played great and our defensive pressure didn’t seem to bother them. They secured the ball well and they played great,” Anoka-Ramsey coach Dave DeWitt said about the Region semifinal. “To be honest we got a bit lucky.”
Anoka sophomore Caprice Ogris came through with a game-high 24 points with the key heads-up play coming in the closing seconds.
Fergus Falls made a basket with 12 seconds left and Ogris made a heads-up play to drive to the rim in an attempt to draw a foul. She made the lay-up but missed the ensuing free throw for the close win with 4.1 seconds left.
“She made some good decisions Saturday and was just as good for us on Sunday,” DeWitt said.
The Golden Rams enter nationals ranked fourth averaging 48.185 points per game.
First-year player Maria Loughline ranks fourth in three pointers in the nation on a 41-percent clip (59-145).
Second-year player Tamarra Shorter ranks fourth in the nation in steals averaging 4.9 per game. Her 131 steals in 27 games also leads the country.
DeWitt said Anoka-Ramsey will need to continued to build off its defensive ability to generate offensive opportunities. “Rebounding has been an issue for us all year long and Fergus Falls hammered us and we did a much better job against Rochester,” he said. “Offensively we’ve been inconsistent all year and have to make better decisions. We’re not as efficent as I’d like us to be, but we’re not terrible by any stretch of the imagination.”