Anoka-Ramsey Community College mens basketball earned a trip to nationals for only the second time in program history.
The No. 4 (MCAC South Division) seeded Golden Rams (23-8) upset three higher ranked teams to win the MCAC/Region XIII Tournament on its home court in Coon Rapids.
“We feel very fortunate and very blessed that our guys were able to make plays down the stretch, not just in the championship game but tournament-long for a great team-effort from eight guys,” Golden Rams Ron Larson said who was named Region XIII Coach of the Year.
Next up is a trip to the eight-team National Junior College Athletic Association Division III national tournament for the first time since 2000, March 13-15, in Loch Sheldrake, New York.
One theme throughout the MCAC season was how evenly matched the teams were with three programs earning a place on the national rankings.
Rochester and Vermillion ranked second and third in the final rankings. But St. Cloud reached No. 2 and Anoka-Ramsey reached seventh in mid-January.
The Golden Rams opened the tournament with an 80-76 win over top-seed (North Division) Vermillion Community College.
Golden Rams guard Joe Lyons had 20 points and Lemuel Doe added 18 points and six rebounds. Anthony Brama came off the bench to record a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also had six assists in 28 minutes of work.
Anoka-Ramsey continued that success in a 73-70 win over No. 3 seed (North Division) Mesabi Range in the semifinals. Pollard led the way with 27 points and Doe added 20.
The Golden Rams needed overtime to top Rochester Community and Technical College (No. 1 seed South Division and ranked second nationally), 88-85. Rochester won both regular season meetings including by 27 points three weeks before.
Rochester leading scorer Chuck Robinson had a game-high 29 points but Larson noted that scoring came from 30 attempted shots thanks to the combined efforts of Johnson and Brama to contest each shot.
The Yellowjackets led 40-37 at the half but Anoka responded on a 15-3 run to begin the second half that saw seven lead changes.
“We were happy that we managed to cut the lead and the message was they won the first five minutes and we need to win the first five minutes of the second half and we did that,” Larson said.
Rochester missed a shot in the final seconds and Lyons missed a contested lay up plus Johnson missed a tip-in chance to end regulation.
Fortunately for the Golden Rams, Robbinson picked up his fifth foul three minutes into the second overtime.
Pollard made a great move to attack the basket to lead by two points of his team-high 28 points with 30 seconds left.
Brama picked up another double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds coming off the bench. He had seven assists and blocked a shot in 34 points. The Golden Rams shot nearly 71 percent from the free throw line and 43.2 percent from the field.
Anoka-Ramsey was well represented in the tournament awards with Doe, Pollard and Brama named to the all-tournament team and Pollard earned most valuable player honors.
Anoka-Ramsey opens nationals against last year’s runner-up, Eastfield College (Mesquite, Texas) at noon, March 13.
Six of the eight teams return to nationals and Larson said Eastfield has a similar look with several athletic 6-4 and 6-5 guards who know how to punish the opposition.
Jason Olson is at