Bruised Blue Devils put up a fight

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 21, 2003

Rochester survived Riverland's best runs and retaliated like the third-ranked team in the MCCC's South Division, dousing the Blue Devils' desire to win with a 92-78 victory Wednesday night in Austin.

The Yellowjackets (18-6, 9-3) fought off a relentless Riverland quad in a game that at times seemed like it would be undecided until the final buzzer.

"I'm so proud of these kids," said Riverland coach David Lillemon. "You don't know how beat up we are."

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Curt Peterson played in the final home game for the sophomore class despite a hobbling hip injury, but Riverland (6-17, 1-10) simply did not have enough size to combat the Yellowjackets.

"They went after us inside, that's been kind of the story the last seven or eight games," Lillemon said. "But the boys never gave up."

A myriad of Blue Devil three-pointers made Rochester's double-digit leads dissipate, but the 'Jackets fought back just as hard as Riverland did.

"We talked about composure and focus on the road," said RCTC coach Brian LaPlante. "You know the home team is going to make two big runs, and I think we had an answer for each of them."

After trailing by eight at the break, Riverland's 10-2 run early in the second half started a topsy-turvy finish. The Blue Devils, who led only once at 3-2, got to within one, 50-49, with 15:42 to play. Rochester responded with a 10-0 streak.

Not to be outdone, Riverland scored nine consecutive points over a span of two minutes to get within five.

Rochester came out of a timeout on an 11-2 run and put the game away. The win helped RCTC eclipse its best record in 15 years.

"It was a game of runs," Lillemon said. "There were a lot of threes."

Riverland hit 15 three-pointers in the game while daring RCTC to shoot from outside. The Yellowjackets stepped up their league-worst .318 three-point percentage and went 9-of-18 from beyond the arc. Austin High School graduates Tony Ball and Corey Christopherson were a combined 5-for-11 from outside, and Rob Giles hit 4-of-6 en route to a game-high 27 points.

"To tell you the truth, I would have done the same thing," LaPlante said of Riverland's defense. "But the last two weeks we've shot around 60 percent from the three-point line, so we're actually shooting the three better now than any time we have this year."

RCTC's Rob Giles scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the first half after hitting his first seven field-goal attempts. He finished 10-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-6 from three-point range. Rochester point guard Trey Boyd was one assist away from a triple-double, racking up 12 points (all in the second half), 12 rebounds and nine assists.

Andy Stouvenel scored 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting to lead Riverland in his last home game. Freshman Jeff Roemhildt added 16 points in the paint, and John Tillo chipped in 10. Sophomores Peterson and Kelly Connaughty scored nine each, and Mark Skellenger hit a free-throw.

AHS graduate Adam Kasper had a tough night of shooting, going 2-for-10 for 8 points against a pair of former Packer teammates and in front of the best crowd Riverland has seen in at least two years. The 'Packer Night' promotion packed the stands for the Devils' final home game with three AHS graduates on the court.

"I've got to thank the community for that," Lillemon said. "I think they saw this is a good brand of basketball."

Minneapolis (22-1, 11-0), ranked second in the nation, hosts the Devils Saturday at 3 p.m.


ROCHESTER (92) -- John Freeman 9, Tony Ball 14, Luke Middendorf 1, Corey Christopherson 9, Bryce Hall 4, Rob Giles 27, Eric Brown 0, Nathan Lovik 0, Trey Boyd 12, Kyle Johnson 0, Chris Metcalf 8, Xavier Jones 2, Lance Roorda 2, Jon Born 2, Josh Ronningen 0.

RIVERLAND (78) -- Kelly Connaughty 9, Curt Peterson 9, Adam Kasper 8, Calvin Morris 3, John Tillo 10, Andy Stouvenel 22, Jeff Roemhildt 16, Mark Skellenger 0.

Halftime score--Roch 45, Riv 37. Three-pointers--Roch 9-18 (Giles 4-6, Christopherson 3-7, Ball 2-4, Boyd 0-1); Riv 15-31 (Stouvenel 5-9, Connaughty 3-4, Peterson 3-8, Tillo 2-3, Kasper 2-7). Free-throws--Roch 15-21, Riv 11-14. Rebounds--Roch 43 (Boyd 12); Riv 20 (Peterson, Stouvenel 4). Team fouls--Roch 16, Riv 16. Technical foul--Riverland coach Lillemon. Fouled out--Roemhildt, Connaughty.