By SAZOUN GRAYER
ROCHESTER, MINN — The Harvesters advanced to the 2020 NJCAA Division III national tournament final four after dominating the No. 11 seeded St. Cloud Technical and Community College 96-63 in the quarterfinal matchup.
Though the two teams looked similar on paper, Eastfield won in convincing fashion to claim their spot in today’s semifinal round. The Harvesters were executing in all phases for most of the game and continued to run up the score even with a big lead.
At first, it looked like the game was going to be close. The Cyclones started with a 5-0 run and Eastfield’s starting guard Calvin Williams went down with an ankle injury within the first two minutes.
However, Eastfield came back to seize the lead after a three-pointer by Williams’ replacement guard, Ezekiel Fields, put the Harvesters up 12-11. Fields finished unofficially with 13 points and four steals. Official statistics weren’t available after the game due to problems with the system.
“That’s what a back-up point guard is for,” Fields said. “Just in case the starting point guard gets hurt or isn’t doing the job, the back-up is there to do it.”
Some big plays helped Eastfield build momentum in the first half including blocks by forward Tyrese Davis and a slam dunk from forward D’Angelo Smith. Guard DaJuan Ridgeway led the team with an unofficial 24 points to go along with nine assists on the night.
Eastfield went on an 8-0 run with seven minutes left in the first period and then an 8-1 run right before halftime to give them a 47-35 advantage at the break.
“It was just some great calls by the coach,” forward Kyree Rogers said. “A lot of the stuff we do wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for him and his system. We got a great coach, we got some great players, put two and two together [and] we’ll see what happens.”
The Harvesters went on a 14-3 run right after halftime. As the second period went on, timely steals, good ball movement and a shutdown of the Cyclones’ offense propelled Eastfield to an almost 40-point advantage. The score was never close again.
“We really just pressured them into shooting the ball and doing stuff that they didn’t want to do,” Fields said. “We were making them play our game.”
Ahead of the Harvesters is the No. 2 seeded Mohawk Valley Hawks.
The Hawks secured their spot in the final four after beating No. 10 Nassau 101-91 in their fifteenth 100-point performance of the season. Mohawk Valley is 29-2 with a 17 game winning streak and is ranked second in the country in scoring.
“Good team,” Fletcher said. “They got some guys that can shoot, a lefty that can drive and do some good things … They score the ball, they play defense, they do a little bit of everything.”
The two teams last met in the 2016 national tournament when Eastfield beat the Hawks in overtime 96-90 in the fourth-place consolation game.
A win against the Hawks means the Harvesters will play again later tonight in the championship game after it was moved up a day due to concerns of the coronavirus outbreak. It may not have been part of the original plans, but Fletcher says it’s just the way life is sometimes.
“Bottom line, we just got to go find a way,” he said said. “If you don’t get it done, you don’t get it done. If we get it done, great. We’ll be ready.”
Eastfield will play Mohawk Valley at 1 p.m. after the 11 a.m. semifinal between No. 1 Sandhills Community College and No. 4 Rochester. The national championship game will take place at 6 p.m.