On Sunday, March 1, the Rochester Community & Technical College men's basketball team earned the right to extend their season and to enjoy home court advantage in the 2019-20 NJCAA Men's Basketball Division III National Championships.
The Yellowjackets defeated St. Cloud Technical & Community College, 82-62 in the championship game of the 2019-20 NJCAA North Plains District Men's Basketball Tournament, clinching one of eight automatic berths in the NJCAA Division III men's basketball finals.
RCTC will be right at home in the national tournament; the Rochester Sports commission and RCTC serve as host of the 2019-20 NJCAA tournament, one of several NJCAA championship events hosted in the Med City, including most recently the 2019 NJCAA Division III Volleyball National Championships.
St. Cloud Technical & Community College put together the best season in program history, notching 25 wins and claiming the MCAC Southern Division title outright, after sharing it last year with Riverland Community College. The Cyclones suffered only three losses on the year, with two coming at the hands of the Yellowjackets. SCTCC standout Eric Racine hit the 1,000 point mark during the 2019-20 campaign and head coach Andy Cone earned adidas/Nicklasson Athletic Coach-of-the-Year honors in leading the Cyclones to their record-setting year.
For Rochester, a balanced offense throughout the North Plains District Tournament proved key to the Yellowjacket success. Sophomore Kong Kong, one of RCTC's leading scorers in both quarterfinal and semi-final rounds was held to five points by the Cyclones. Jerome Cunningham and Devin Melzer stepped up for head coach Brian LaPlante, each scoring 17 points and 15 points, respectively. Kong found other avenues to contribute as well, hauling in a game-high 11 rebounds.
As a team, RCTC controlled the pace of play from the opening whistle and kept the high-powered SCTCC offense from getting into gear. The Cyclones had registered point totals of 90 or more in 18 games this season; Rochester held SCTCC to their lowest scoring output of the year.
Head coach Brian LaPlante and his team will be in familiar territory in the gym and on the NJCAA national stage; RCTC has been to the NJCAA National Tournament on six occasions, most recently in 2016 where they finished as the runner up.
Rochester joins seven other automatic qualifiers who have punched their ticket for the 2019-20 NJCAA Men's Basketball Division III National Championships. Mohawk Valley (NY), Columbus State (OH), Eastfield (TX), Hostos (NY), Montgomery County (PA), Sandhills (NC) and Rhode Island have all earned spots in the tournament. Two of those squads - Rhode Island and Columbus State - claimed their post-season spot as an unranked team in the NJCAA Division III.
High performing teams from the Minnesota College Athletic Conference and across the country will turn their attention to the NJCAA Division III Men's Basketball at-large process. New this year, four teams will be selected as At-Large participants, rounding out the NJCAA Division III field at 12 teams in 2019-20.
NJCAA Division III Men's Basketball Page: https://www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/index
For more on MCAC Men's Basketball, please go to: https://www.mcacsports.org/sports/mbkb/index
NJCAA Basketball, including National Top15 Poll and Player-of-the-Week releases can be found at: https://www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/index
The Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the organizational body for NJCAA-affiliated two-year technical and community college athletic programs in the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, as well as select member colleges in North Dakota and Wisconsin. The mission of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is to advance intercollegiate athletics by providing an engaging and supportive environment for success of our student athletes and competition among member institutions. The MCAC is committed to the guiding principles of encouraging the development and success of student athletes, promoting the integrity, honesty and loyalty to member schools as well as upholding the sustainability of conference athletic programs.
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