WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: With 24-1 record Northland's team heads to NJCAA Division III national tournament
With a 24-1 record and a No. 5 national ranking, the Northland Community and Technical College women's basketball team was a little disappointed when it received a No. 7 seed in the NJCAA Division III national tournament. "We thought we earned th...
With a 24-1 record and a No. 5 national ranking, the Northland Community and Technical College women’s basketball team was a little disappointed when it received a No. 7 seed in the NJCAA Division III national tournament.
“We thought we earned that five spot,” Northland coach Shannon Nelson said. “But it ends up not being terrible for us. I don’t mind where we’re set up in the brackets.”
So there’s reason for optimism as the Pioneers ride a 19-game winning streak into Thursday’s national quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Onondaga Community College of New York. The eight-team tournament is played in Rochester, Minn.
“This team has a lot of the tools to make a run in this thing,” said Nelson, who has coached Northland the past four seasons.
The Pioneers advanced to the national tournament for the fifth straight year. Northland is looking to advance out of the first round for the first time in three years.
Northland’s strength is in its height and balance. The Pioneers are led by 6-foot sophomore forward Sarah Durand, who is fourth in NJCAA DIII with a scoring average of 24 points per game. Durand, of Warren, Minn., shoots 52 percent from the field and grabs 9.6 rebounds per game.
Sophomore guard Jenna Lundon, of Waubun, Minn., averages 15.6 points per game, while freshman forward Danielle Hernandez averages 15.2 and freshman forward Crystal Amundson, of Thief River Falls, averages 14.1.
“In previous years, we had maybe two players who could really hurt teams,” Nelson said. “When teams have tried to double Sarah, we have others to step up.”
All nine players on the Northland roster are Minnesota natives.
Despite opening the tournament against a New York opponent, the Pioneers have a bit of familiarity with Onondaga. Northland lost to Onondaga in the first round two years ago on a last-second basket.
“They put up a lot of points, but they’re a little undersized,” Nelson said. “They like to score in transition. They don’t use the full shot clock and take the first good look.”
That makes the pace of the game the focus for Northland, which starts two 6-foot posts.
“Tempo is really going to determine who’s successful,” Nelson said. “If we can get back on defense and play halfcourt man defense, it’s going to be big.”