Blue Devils smother Trojans in season opener

Published 9:52 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Blue Devils stumbled at the start, but their bench turned up the pressure and their defense carried them through the night as Riverland opened its men’s basketball season with an 89-50 win over Dakota State University’s JV in Riverland Gym Tuesday.

No. 10 ranked Riverland Community College (1-0 overall) took five minutes to score its first field goal of the game, but once it did it took control. After trailing 4-2, the Blue Devils seized a 19-8 lead as Junior Stone, a sophomore from Richfield, came off the bench to lead the charge. Stone finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

“When you’re on the bench, you have to focus on what’s going on in the game,” Stone said. “You have to see what they’re doing and you kind of have an advantage. We came in and kind of turned up the pace and got aggressive and then it was easy for us.”

Jamari Magee, a freshman from Milwaukee, helped the Blue Devils put the game away in the second half when he converted two steals for scores and hit a three-pointer in a two-minute stretch to put RCC up 58-26 with 12:48 left in the game.

Magee also came off the bench for the Blue Devils, who had 11 players score in the win.

“I don’t really cherish playing time,” said Magee, who finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals. “Whether I play five minutes or ten minutes, we all bring a lot of intensity. I try not to worry about minutes at all. It could be anybody’s night.”

While RCC struggled with its shooting, the defense was consistent as it forced Dakota to turn the ball over 26 times.

“I believe we can hold teams below their average and we can score a lot too,” Magee said. “As long as we stay together, we can stay ranked. It all starts in practice. We really emphasize staying locked in defensively. That will create highlights and we like highlights. We like to get it out and run.”

RCC head coach Derek Hahn said that he expects his team to pick up its shooting as the season rolls on.

“I would’ve anticipated a better offensive performance. I think there’s something to say about nerves. I think we’re going to shoot a lot better this year. We’ll have a chance to be good on both ends of the court,” Hahn said. “Depth is key if you’re going to win at a high rate. We’ve been fortunate enough to have that in the last couple of years.”

Cleveland Bedgood, a sophomore from Miami, had a slow first half for RCC with just two points, but he cranked up the tempo in the second half and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

“Cleveland is a player we trust and he had a very efficient second half,” Hahn said. “It was nice to see some guys step up.”

The Blue Devils will host Luther College JV at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 16.

RCC went 16-3 overall last season, but the NJCAA did not hold a postseason due to COVID-19.

“The expectations are high and they have been for the past couple of years,” Hahn said. “We have guys that helped us build the program over the years watching us and that’s helped us get some national recognition. We have to understand that every game matters.”

RCC played Tuesday’s game without 6-foot, 9-inch center Deng Jal, who is out with an injury. Jal started every game last season.

Dakota 19  31  –  50

Riverland 36  53  –  89

RCC scoring: Jamari Magee, 18; Junior Stone, 15; Cleveland Bedgood, 13; Dominik Bangu, 12; Joe Burgos, 10; Ryan Burgess, 8; Bertelson Dorcely, 4; Lajarrion Spinks, 2; Travyron Smith, 2; Donavan Morris, 2; Ethan Clavero, 2; free throws: 58 percent (11-for-19); rebounds: 63 (Bedgood, 8); turnovers: 13