ANOKA — Marcus Ayala tallied 16 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists as the sophomore led the fourth-ranked, and second-seeded Central Lakes College Raiders past the No. 4 seeded Northern Division Hibbing Cardinals in the quarterfinal round of the MCAC state tournament Friday night.
The Raiders tallied 21 assists and forced 20 Cardinals turnovers as their deep bench paid dividends in the second half.
“During the first half we contained them pretty well,” CLC coach Jim Russell said. “In the second half we let loose a little bit and really pressured them. Our defense picked up and didn’t let them get a lot of second-shots.”
Nash Faulk led the Raiders with 23 points followed by Maurice Hernandez with 16, while Anthony Kelley provided 12 off the bench.
We struggled in the first half, Hibbing came out and gave it all they had,” Ayala said. “They played hard and caught us off guard.”
“We found the energy and the momentum shifted in our favor,” Faulk said. “Our shots began to fall and from then on the game was ours.”
The Raiders advanced to Saturday’s semifinals against the Anoka-Ramsey Rams, who defeated Vermilion 70-68 earlier in the day. The Raiders and Rams split the season series 1-1 with each team winning on the road.
“They’re on a hot streak and we will have to take care of the basketball,” Russell said. “They want to play a half-court game and we don’t want to do that.”
Hibbing 27 38 —65
Central Lakes 31 57 —88
Phillip Freeman 12, Ryan Peterson 2, Josh Wagner 13, Derek Pihlaja 7, Orlando Edwards Jr. 20, Reese Ayers 3, Shaylon Fenstermaker 8. FG 26-67 (39 percent), FT 9-14 (64 percent)
Marcus McDonald 4, Marcus Ayala 16, John Hicks 1, Nash Faulk 23, Maurice Hernandez 16, Kendall Brown 2, Kwamaine Johnson 4, Nick Grewe 8, Anthony Kelley 12, Steven Halwood 2. FG 33-72 (46 percent). FT 17-21 (81 percent).
Overall: 26-2. Next: Central Lakes vs. Anoka-Ramsey in MCAC state semifinals at Anoka 3 p.m. Saturday.