Article by Harry Lipsiea, Devils Lake Journal Sports, November 21st, 2016.
Winning college basketball games is not an easy task. Add a long road trip and a hostile environment to the mix and it is downright difficult to walk away with a victory.
Sporting a 5-1 record, the Lake Region State College women's basketball team played away from the friendly confines of the Devils Lake Sports Center for the first time over the weekend.
The Royals played Miles Community College Friday before tipping off against McCook Community College Saturday morning.
In its first contest, the team battled in a razor-thin contest against the home team. Ultimately, the Pioneers pulled out the 70-67 victory.
LRSC, however, didn't have time to be disappointed. The squad bounced back with an 87-74 win over the Indians of McCook Community College.
In all, it was a positive weekend full of non-conference action against NJCAA Division I competition.
"I think this is a going to be remembered as a good weekend for us," Danny Mertens, LRSC head coach, told the Journal. "As a team, we were in a lot of new situations that we haven't faced so far. It is really going to help us in the end. The key will be to learn from each situation and keep getting better."
It was an absolutely monster weekend for Cassidy Nelson. Against Miles Community College, the sophomore post player finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and a steal. As hard as it is to believe, the West Fargo native was even better Saturday against McCook Community College. She finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
"I can't overstate how good of a weekend Cassidy had. She had two double-doubles and did a great job of having a consistent presence on both sides of the ball," Mertens stated. "She had two absolutely tremendous games."
MCC 70 LRSC 67
If Friday's matchup between Miles Community College and Lake Region State College would have lasted a minute longer, it's hard to know what the turnout would have been. From beginning to end, it was an absolute back-and-forth contest between the two teams.
The Royals got an early lead in the contest as guard Helen Schuster nailed back-to-back three-point shots to make the score 15-14. The Pioneers went on a run late in the quarter to take a 25-20 advantage going into the second quarter.
MCC started out hot in the final quarter behind a three and a basket in transition. It was back-and-forth as the Royals got leads of six and five, but the Pioneers kept marching ahead. A three by MCC tied the game up at 60 with three minutes to play. After a mid-range jumper and two free throws, the home team led by four.
Late in the game, a layup by Nelson tied the game up at 67. A trio of free throws in the final seconds led to a 70-67 win for the Pioneers.
Leading the way for LRSC was Nelson with 22 points. Schuster and Gobald each added 11 points. Irwin and Hanson had six points apiece. Gach finished with five points while Emily Schafer and Mikayla Wallace had three points each.
LRSC forced 37 Pioneer turnovers while turning the ball over 19 times in comparison. The Royals however were outshot from the field 40 percent to 33 percent.
"I thought we played very well defensively again. We just made too many costly mistakes late," Mertens said. "We also didn't shoot well from the line. To win games down the stretch, you just can't afford those little mistakes. But, it was a learning experience. I'm confident we will get better from this game."
LRSC 87 McCook 74
The Royals went right back to work Saturday morning. Eager to walk away from Miles City, Mont., with a win, LRSC was ready to go against McCook.
After a very close first quarter that ended in a 17-17 deadlock, the Royals got on a roll. A pair of shots from beyond the arc by Mikayla Wallce and a layup by Ella Gobald gave the away team a 26-17 lead. Mackenzie Irwin and Jadyn Fee added threes to give the Royals a 15-point advantage.
LRSC continued to hold a lead in the second taking a 43-31 advantage into the locker room at the half.
The Royals controlled the second period, but the Lady Indians controlled the third. Two threes and several buckets in transition got McCook going. Another three gave McCook a 63-62 advantage going into the fourth.
Key baskets in the fourth by Irwin, Wallace and Cassidy Nelson gave the Royals momentum. Key free throws by Wallace and Fee helped LRSC secure an 87-74 victory and improve to 6-2 on the season.
"I thought we did a great job bouncing back from the night before," Mertens stated. "To me, our ability to execute and knock down free throws was the difference against McCook. It was a good win that gave us confidence."
LRSC finished with five players scoring in double figures. Nelson led the way with 28 points. Irwin finished with 17 points while Wallace added 12. Schuster netted 11 points while Jadyn Fee had 10 . Jillian hanson scored five points while Mer Gach and Ella Gobald rounded out the scoring with two points.
The Royals are back in town Wednesday as they face Northern State JV at 6:30 p.m. Historically, the Wolves have always featured strong teams.
"It's going to be a challenge," Mertens said. "They have a great program down there. We know it's going to be tough."