Pioneers back on top

Not this time. A year ago a heavily-favored Northland team lost a National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Region 13B tournament title game to Mesabi Range 77-75 – a month after whipping the Norse 71-39 in a regular season match-up.
The same scenario played out Sunday with a Northland vs. Mesabi Range region championship contest rematch in Thief River Falls. And again, the Pioneers hand dominated the home-and-home regular season series with a 74-45 and 78-50 sweep.
Northland made sure there was no post-season duplication in 2016 by bouncing Mesabi Range out of the picture 79-49.
That came a day after a pair of ten-point semifinal wins by the Pioneers over Rainy River 75-65 and the Norse against Itasca 67-57.
With the two region victories, Northland ran its record to 26-2 and earned a spot in the NJCAA national tournament March 10-12 at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J. 
Five Pioneers had double figure scoring efforts against Mesabi Range as ShaRon Miller netted 20 points, Allyson Dahl 19, Courtney Amirayan 12, Tori Mekash 12 and Cheyenne Woods 10. It was a double-double for both Woods and Amirayan, who had 13 rebounds each.
Northland led 39-27 at halftime.
Katie Lenci had a 19-point game to lead the Mesabi Range offense.
The Pioneers shot 43 percent from the field (26/60) and had a productive 24-for-34 afternoon at the free throw line. The Norse shot only 29 percent from the floor (17/58) and went 11-for-16 at the line. 
It was a 48-37 Northland championship game rebound advantage. Mesabi topped the turnover figures, 10-8.
The Pioneers had a 39-28 halftime lead in the tournament-opening win over Rainy River and held off the Voyageurs over the final 20 minutes.
Miller scored 20 points in that one, with Mekash putting together a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double and Dahl contributing 14 points.
Four Rainy River scorers reached double figures, led by Dominique Hines with 16 points.
Northland went 27-for-65 from the floor (42 percent) and 19-for-25 at the free throw line. Rainy River was 20-for-61 from the floor (33 percent) and 22-for-28 at the line.
The Pioneers finished with a 47-40 rebound edge over the Voyageurs, who had a 15-12 high figure in the turnover department.
Roxbury (Mass.) and Northland finished 1-2 in the final NJCAA Division III rankings. The Pioneers will head into the national tournament – their sixth trip in the past seven years – sporting a 17-game winning streak. 
 
Northland vs. Rainy River
1 2 T
Rainy River 28 37 65
Northland 39 36 75
Rainy River – Shania Thompson 12, Cassie Tomczak 3, Renee Panthoplet 8, Maddie Filipiak 13, Dominique Hines 16, Brooke Millerbrend 13.
Northland – Courtney Amirayan 8, Myesha Caldwell 5, Kendra Brasel 6, Tori Mekash 16, Cheyenne Woods 6, Allyson Dahl 14, ShaRon Miller 20.
Mesabi Range vs. Itasca
1 2 T
Itasca 32 25 57
Mesabi Range 32 35 67
Itasca – Amber Smith 16, Dez Lapointe 23, Amy Gelhar 5, Mandi McNeil 2, Courtney Welk 11.
Mesabi Range – Brielle Wills 5, Maija DePaulis 13, Katie Lenci 17, Lexi Hill 21, Laura Ostman 2, Taneesha Dupree 5, Kianna Martinson 2, Alexis Boissy 2.
Northland vs. Mesabi Range
1 2 T
Mesabi Range 27 22 49
Northland 39 40 79
Mesabi Range – Brielle Wills 4, Katie Lenci 19, Lexi Hill 7, Laura Ostman 10, Taneesha Dupree 2, Kianna Martinson 5, Alexis Boissy 2.
Northland – Courtney Amirayan 12, Myesha Caldwell 1, Kendra Brasel 4, Tori Mekash 12, Cheyenne Woods 10, Haley Gehrtz 1, Allyson Dahl 19, ShaRon Miller 20.

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