The Lake Region State College Lady Royals basketball team traveled down to Las Vegas, Nevada to take on 3 high quality NJCAA opponents over Christmas Break. Salt Lake CC came into the tournament with an 11-3 record and ranked #8 in the nation, Utah State Eastern held a record of 13-4 and College of Southern Idaho started the week off 12-2, ranked #22 in the nation. The Lady Royals would be in for a tough week versus top competition.
In the first game of the week versus #8 Salt Lake CC a slow start doomed LRSC from the beginning. SLCC would jump out to a 13-2 lead forcing a Royals timeout. Lake Region had trouble with the pressure defense from Salt Lake and struggled to make shots from the field. At the half, the score was 36-19. In the second half, the Royals could not ever cut into the SLCC lead with the game only getting below 20 points one time in the 3rd quarter. The Final LRSC 47 SLCC 69. Head Coach Danny Mertens said, "When you play the #8 team in the country you can't come out and spot them a lead like that early. We were not ready to go and it cost us. Credit to the team for battling with them the rest of the way we just could not overcome our slow start."
Game two had the Royals matched up against Utah State Eastern, which saw the Royals have another sluggish start. Midway through the 1st quarter, they trailed USE 16-3. This time they were able to cut into the deficit and only trailed by 10 after 1. A 10-0 run to start the second quarter put the USE lead to 20 and they never looked back. USE would bombard LRSC with 3's on their way to making 13 of them on the game. The final LRSC 74 USE 94. The Lady Royals were led by a monster performance from Maara Nelson who had 32 points and 15 rebounds. Emily Schaefer had 16 points for the Royals. Head Coach Danny Mertens said, "A slow start and the run they had to start the 2nd quarter is what did us in today. We played great basketball from 30 minutes it was just that let down of 10 that hurt us. The team played with them the rest of the game, just need to find a way to get going sooner. Maara Nelson played her best game all season today, really stepped up when we needed her."
The third and final game of the trip was against #22 College of Southern Idaho. After 2 days of slow starts, it was the Royals time to go on the offensive early. They jumped out to a 10-7 lead over CSI. The second quarter was back and forth with CSI finally jumping ahead to grab a 37-30 lead heading into the break. In the second, the Lady Royals continued to make it tough on the #22 team, trailing by 10 midway through the third and into the fourth. With about 5 minutes to go CSI made a run to go up by 18 and put the game out of reach. Annie Jorgenson who posted a double double 12 points and 10 rebounds, Maara Nelson 12 points and Emily Schaefer 11 points led the Royals. The final LRSC 58 CSI 75. Head Coach Danny Mertens said, "I was really happy with the team today. They did an outstanding job against a very tough opponent. I thought we guarded and made them work hard for everything they got. We did a good job of having a better start today, giving ourselves that early lead. That was something we talked about before the game."
Head Coach Danny Mertens continued, "Overall I am very happy with the way we played this week. We were not able to come out with a win but the level of competition we played is only going to help us now that conference play is right around the corner. I love the way we are defending right now, the team has really bought into that side of the ball. Also, I wanted to commend our forwards in Shay'Lee Dayman, Maggie Gilbert & Mary Kalal, they really stepped up their play for us throughout the week. That is going to be critical for us in the second half of the season."
The Lady Royals return home 10-7 on the season. They will be back in action January 2nd versus Northland, 5:30pm in Thief River Falls, MN. The MonDak Conference opener will be Sunday January 7th at 1pm vs. Bismarck State College.