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Men's basketball: Rochester slips by Ridgewater

Tribune photo by Brooke Kern Ridgewater’s Melvin Kromah goes up for the bucket against Rochester's Rico Gunn (23) and Carnell Williford (12) on Wednesday in Willmar.

WILLMAR — The Ridgewater men’s basketball team took the No. 8 team in the country to the brink before falling on Wednesday night at the Ridgewater gym.

The Warriors and Rochester were tied nine times and exchanged the lead eight times before the Yellowjackets prevailed 79-69 in the MCAC Southern Division game.

“We gave them a big scare,” said Warriors head coach Bob Knutson. “This was their toughest game of the year. I’m just amazed how well we played. And (Rochester) played outstanding.”

The Warriors fell to 4-5 in the division and 10-12 overall. Rochester leads the Southern Division with a 9-0 mark and is 19-3 overall. The Yellowjackets are tied for eighth in the latest NJCAA Division III national poll.

Ridgewater, which lost at Rochester 90-45 last month, held a one point halftime lead but the Yellowjackets shot 55 percent from the field in the second half to fend off the Warriors.

Rochester’s Cory Speer scored 26 points and big man Joe Beck finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocked shots.

“He was the difference,” Knutson said. “He’s being recruited by all the (region’s NCAA Division II) teams and even a Division I team. He’s the real deal.”

Ridgewater had four players score in double figures, led by Melvin Kromah’s 16 points. Zak Pendleton scored 15 and Neil Helgeson and Beau Herrig both had 10. Helgeson led the Warriors with 7 rebounds.

“Our guys really stepped up to another level tonight,” said Knutson, whose team is still in the fight for one of the division’s four postseason positions. “If we continue to play like this, with this level of intensity, we’ll be in the running for the third or fourth playoff spot. I’m so proud of how they played tonight.”

Rochester 79, Ridgewater 69

Rochester (9-0 19-3)    30 49 — 79

Willmar (4-5 10-12)    31 38 — 69

ROCHESTER – 29-59 FG (9-21 3-pt); 12-21 FT; 41 rebounds; 17 fouls … Scoring: Justyn Galloway 10, Carnell Willford 3, Cory Speer 26, Rico Gunn 8, Chuck Robinson 9, Vidal Vance 5, David Scott 4, Joe Beck 14 … 3-point shots: Speer 6, Gunn 1, Vance 1, Willford 1 … Rebound leaders: Beck 11, Galloway 6 … Assist leaders: Speer 5, Gunn 4 … Steal leaders: Speer 3

WILLMAR – 27-62 FG (6-17 3-pt); 9-14 FT; 31 rebounds; 15 fouls … Scoring: Zak Pendleton 15, Melvin Kromah 16, Neil Helgeson 10, Terrance Lockett 8, Jake Rambow 4, Jordan Schwarz 2, Zach Henning 3, Jeremy Olson 1, Beau Herrig 10 … 3-point shots: Pendleton 3, Kromah 1, Helgeson 1, Rambow 1 … Rebound leaders: Helgeson 7, Lockett 4, Rambow 4 … Assist leaders: Pendleton 3, Helgeson 3, Lockett 3 … Steal leaders: Olson 3, Lockett 2, Herrig 2

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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