The Golden Rams fell short of repeating as NJCAA Division III national champions, but brought home some hardware in the form of the third-place trophy.
Anoka-Ramsey rebounded from a 63-55 semifinal loss to the eventual national champions from Rock Valley College with a 63-61 win over Onondaga Community College March 17.
Coach Dave DeWitt added his second third-place trophy go along with two national championships in what has become one of the premier NJCAA women’s basketball programs in the country with two national titles.
“Immediate reaction was disappointment,” he said after the semifinal loss. “But a lot of teams would gladly trade places with us so we had quite a run again and third place is nothing to be ashamed of.”
The top two seeds in the tournament, No. 1 Golden Rams and No. 2 Onondaga, faced off in the semifinal instead of the final, but that didn’t detract from the intensity of the game.
“I’m sure both teams were disappointed they weren’t playing in the 8 o’clock game, but we showed a lot of resilience and it would’ve been easy to go through the emotions,” DeWitt said.
The final outcome came down to the buzzer as Onondaga missed a last-second basket which would’ve tied the game.
The teams were tied at 24 points at halftime and stayed together until the final buzzer with 12 ties and 21 lead changes.
Onondaga grabbed its largest lead of the game 4-0 minutes into the contest, while Anoka-Ramsey took its largest lead at 18-12 of the first half.
Golden Rams freshman and All-Tournament Team selection Maria Loughlin had a game-high 22 points with five rebounds and four steals, while sophomore Tamarra Shorter added 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
“Maria had three solid games for us,” DeWitt said. “She shot well, defended well and played well and certainly deserved the recognition. She finished out the season the way she’s played all season.”
DeWitt anticipates Loughlin to be a cornerstone of next season’s team in which the program will need to find a number of players to join her.
Anoka-Ramsey led Rock Valley by three points at halftime, but that slim lead quickly evaporated in the second half as Rock Valley used a 38-27 advantage in the second half for the win.
“We had a 10-12 point lead early, but they had too much size for us,” DeWitt said. Rock Valley had two players over six feet tall, compared with Anoka-Ramsey’s tallest player at 5-10. “Down the stretch they had a kid who could pound it in and they out-rebounded us, which has been something we have struggled with all season.”
The Golden Rams were held to 29 percent shooting from the field, but converted their chances at the free throw line (12 of 15).
Rock Valley won the game inside the paint by out-rebounding Anoka-Ramsey 63-35.
Shorter collected another double-double with a team-high 17 points and pulled down 13 points. She paired with Loughlin in scoring (12 points) and on the defensive end. The two played tough on the defensive end of the court as well with a combined 13 steals (seven for Shorter and six for Loughlin).
The national tournament, which was played in Rochester, began well for Anoka-Ramsey, who handed Nassau Community College (N.Y.) a 79-46 defeat March 15.
The Golden Rams’ continued to make shots from the free throw line (64 percent) and shot 37.5 percent from beyond the three-point line to maintain the lead.
Anoka-Ramsey led 32-23 at the half and added 47 points in the second half.
Ogris had a game-high 27 points on five of six from the free throw line and four of nine from the three-point line. She had three steals as the Golden Rams defense came up with 14 steals, led by Shorter with four. She added eight points and pulled in five rebounds. Erica Parker pulled in 10 rebounds with three steals and scored six points.