Rams claim fourth-place trophy in fourth straight national basketball appearance

Anoka-Ramsey Community College women’s basketball coach Dave DeWitt reminded his squad that not many teams end the season with a win, and his latest Golden Rams squad was one of them, winning the fourth-place game at the NJCAA Division III National Tournament at Rochester CTC March 14-16.

Anoka-Ramsey sophomore Kelli Schramm, right, was the lone ARCC player named to the All-Tournament team, averaging 19.3 points and 9.6 rebounds in three games at nationals.Photo by Bill Jones
Anoka-Ramsey sophomore Kelli Schramm, right, was the lone ARCC player named to the All-Tournament team, averaging 19.3 points and 9.6 rebounds in three games at nationals.Photo by Bill Jones

The Golden Rams (24-7), seeded fourth, opened their fourth consecutive trip to nationals with an 84-77 loss to fifth-seed Montgomery College (M.D.). After leading by one point at the break, the Golden Rams succumbed to a 47-39 run in the second half by the Raptors, who shot 52 percent from the field and made 16-25 free throws. Rebounds were a huge factor in the game as well with the Raptors leading in that category 68-38 for the game.

DeWitt said the Rams didn’t have an answer to Montgomery’s inside game. “They have a big post player and we didn’t have an answer and they hammered us on the boards,” he said. “It’s not like we didn’t play well, except for the rebounds piece. We certainly had our opportunities. We played well the whole tournament.”

Montgomery was highlighted by a 31-point, 12-rebound performance by Jocelyn Martin. Anoka-Ramsey’s lone all-tournament team member Kelli Schramm led the way with 18 points on eight for 14 shooting and pulled in 10 rebounds for the double-double.

DeWitt was impressed by Schramm’s play all-tournament long. “Those were the three best games she’s played of the year,” he said. “She’s always a hard worker that can defend and rebound, but we wanted her to be offensively aggressive all year and she was in those three games.”

DeWitt thought the second-year Anoka-Ramsey player would have been an All-American if she played like that all season. “She will have opportunities to play next season,” he said,

Several coaches wanted to talk to him about her tenure at Anoka-Ramsey, DeWitt said.

The Golden Rams recovered from the loss to win the next three games for the fourth-place trophy.

“They got over their disappointment and regrouped,” DeWitt.

According to DeWitt, he always reminds his team that no matter who they play or when they play “that the next game is the most important game of the year.”

“To me you’re only as good as your next game,” DeWitt said.

Anoka-Ramsey took out its frustration of dropping to the consolation bracket by way of an 84-42 win against Ocean County (N.J.) to reach the consolation finals.

Ocean County was the eighth seed at its regional tournament and knocked off the top two seeds to reach nationals. “We pressured them from beginning to end and I was pleased at the way we responded after getting down,” DeWitt said.

Golden Rams’ Natasha Ambrose came off the bench to for a game high 20 points, while four other teammates contributed at least 11 points in the win. Anoka-Ramsey shot 43 percent from the field and made 10 of 13 free throws for a 76.9 percent clip, but the defense capitalized on its chances as Ocean County turned the ball over 26 times which translated into a 26-5 points-off-turnovers margin.

The Golden Rams finished the tournament with a 92-57 win against No. 7 seed Westchester (N.Y.) in the finale.

Westchester was another strong opponent for the Golden Rams, having lost to the championship team by four points in the national tournament opener 55-51.

Eight points from hitting the century mark is an impressive way to finish the season after the initial let-down at nationals.

“Westchester was a very good team,” DeWitt said. “We shot the ball incredibly well and we handled their pressure well. It was another very good team going against another very good team.”

Anoka-Ramsey shot 51.7 percent from the field and 21 of 32 free throws. Both teams turned the ball over combining for 44 turnovers which translated into 48 points (27-21 in favor of ARCC). Schramm once again led the way with a game high 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, but also turned the ball over nine times.

Guard Tacita Gonzalez added 15 points on six for eight shooting from the field. Cami Bauer added 12 points and Ambrose had 10 points in the win.

Rock Valley (Ill.) won its back-to-back national titles, by an average of nearly 17 points.

It is the first team to repeat as champions since Anoka-Ramsey did it from 1997-1999.

Anoka-Ramsey had eight second-year players so the team should look different next season. All-State guard Tacita Gonzalez is one of those second-year players, but instead of continuing to play basketball in college, she wants to focus on her goal to become a probation officer.

DeWitt returns Mariah McLaughlin, who sat out this season after an injury 30 minutes into the first practice of the season abruptly brought her season to an end. “We kept getting better as the year moved along and after Mariah went down we overcame that to win our division and region to get back to nationals,” he said. “We certainly have nothing to apologize for. We have five kids that can come back plus McLaughlin and another transfer at the semester.”

Jason Olson is at [email protected]