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Bay College men’s basketball team bows out in National Junior College Athletic Association regional final

Bay’s Tyler Sundling, right, takes a shot over Rochester’s Quincy Burland on Sunday in an NJCAA regional championship game. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin St. Ours)

ESCANABA — So close and yet so far.

The Bay College men were within a heartbeat of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II regional basketball title but were unable to convert on their final possession in a 66-65 loss to Rochester (Minnesota) Community & Technical College in Sunday’s championship game.

Rochester (12-5) will host its next postseason contest on Saturday as Bay finished 9-15.

The Yellowjackets took a 66-63 lead on a turnaround jump shot by sophomore guard Devyn Frye with 66 seconds left to play, but Bay closed within 66-65 on a layup by sophomore wing Chris Dobessi with 48.2 seconds remaining.

Rochester then failed to score on its next possession, giving it back to the Norse with 15.7 seconds left. The Norse brought the ball downcourt, and the Yellowjackets called timeout with 9 seconds remaining.

Then with just 0.8 seconds left, the Norse turned the ball over for only the 11th time in the tournament.

Following a Norse timeout, the Yellowjackets sealed the victory by inbounding the ball and running out the clock.

“The timeout with 9 seconds left was a smart move on their part,” said Bay coach Matt Johnson. “We were supposed to get the ball to the other wing, but Chris got tripped up. We just didn’t get the shot we wanted.

“This one was the most difficult in 15 years of coaching, no doubt. I don’t think our record shows what kind of kids we had. They were resilient. They fought through more adversity than most other groups.”

Bay reached the title contest by eliminating United Tribal College of Bismarck, North Dakota, 82-58 in Saturday’s semifinals for its first postseason win since 1976, when it held off Suomi College 69-68 in a district opener at Ironwood.

The Norse led 43-38 at halftime Sunday, then were outscored 28-22 in the second half.

“Our kids competed,” said Johnson, who previously coached 11 years at Hibbing (Minn.) Community College. “We just didn’t put the ball in the hole. We did a great job taking care of the ball. This is the best we’ve handled the ball all year. The guys handled the pressure real well.”

The Yellowjackets scored the first eight points of the second half, taking a 46-43 lead on a layup by Frye with 15:19 remaining.

Bay shaved its deficit to 46-45 on a layup by sophomore guard Matt Wagner at 14:48.

Rochester then extended its cushion to 52-45 on a layup by the tourney’s Most Valuable Player, Jerome Cunningham.

Bay regained the lead at 55-54 on a six-foot running jumper and free throw by Rapid River graduate and freshman point guard Tyler Sundling at 9:30.

The lead then changed hands four times during the rest of the way with the Norse going ahead for the last time on a putback by Dollar Bay grad and sophomore wing Jaden Jahnke with 4:45 to go.

Iron Mountain grad and freshman point guard Marcus Johnson and Janke led the Norse with 12 points each.

The Norse had just four miscues in Saturday’s victory.

Marinette grad and sophomore wing Matt Wagner led the way in that game with 30 points, while Dobessi had 10.

Rochester defeated Dakota College at Bottineau, North Dakota, 89-79 in Saturday’s other semifinal.

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