Pioneers prep for NJCAA Division III Nationals

by Scott DCamp
Sports editor
The second-seeded Northland women’s basketball team will face seventh-seeded Anoka-Ramsey Community College in the opening round of the 2017 NJCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championships, which begin tomorrow at the Jorgensen Athletic and Events Center in Utica, N.Y. 
Both teams come out of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference and NJCAA Region 13, but they have not faced each other this season. Northland competes in the MCAC Northern Division and Region 13B, while Anoka-Ramsey competes in the MCAC Southern Division and Region 13A. 
“We have not faced Anoka-Ramsey yet this year, but from what we've known about them in the past they are always well-prepared and well-coached,” said Northland Head Coach Shannon Nelson. “They are a team that plays tough defense, typically man to man with a lot of pressure. They are number one in the nation in made threes per game and number two in three-point attempts per game, so we will definitely need to defend the three-point line and make those shots as difficult as possible.”
Northland won the Region 13B tournament with a 48-34 semifinal victory over Hibbing Community College on March 4 and a 76-31 championship win over Mesabi Range Community College on March 5. The postseason schedule includes a bye week, which means that tomorrow’s game vs. the Golden Rams will be Northland’s first in 10 days. 
“During this week we like to get back to the basics to focus on some of those areas where we could still improve,” Nelson said. “We try to get the players up and down the court and scrimmaging to make sure they maintain their conditioning. Then a couple days before we leave for the tournament, we'll start focusing on our opponent.”
During the tournament, the Pioneers will play three games in three days. 
“We try to keep our routine as normal as possible when we get out there. We'll get a practice the day before the game, then we'll have the national tournament banquet that night. The next day is game day, and most teams get a shoot around in the morning to walk through some game plan type stuff.”
Win or lose, the Pioneers will play additional games Friday and Saturday. 
“After the quarterfinal we are able to watch the game that includes our next opponent, so that helps us to prepare,” Nelson said. “We also have at least one game film on them and we spend quite a bit of time putting a game plan together for the next game. We'll have a walk-through and team meeting to share that game plan with the team afterward.”
The 2017 national tournment is Nelson’s sixth appearance during her seven seasons as head coach at Northland. It is also Northland’s ninth overall NJCAA women’s basketball natitional tournament appearance. 
n Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 16, all times eastern – 7. Anoka-Ramsey vs. 2. Northland, noon; 6. Hostos vs. 3. Roxbury, 2 p.m.; 8. Brookdale vs. 1. Rock Valley, 5 p.m.; 5. West. Georgia Tech vs. 4. Mohawk Valley. 
n Consolation semifinals, Friday, March 17 – noon, 2 p.m. 
n Championship semifinals, Friday, March 17 – 5 p.m., 7 p.m. 
n Placement games, Saturday, March 18 – 7th place game, noon; 5th place game, 2 p.m.; 3rd place game, 5 p.m.; championship game, 7 p.m.