The Central Lakes Raiders sophomores were able to accomplish something significant Saturday.
With a 92-71 win over Vermilion, the NJCAA Division III No. 1 ranked Raiders finished non-divison play with a perfect record. CLC will head into Wednesday’s division opener with Ridgewater at 15-0.
“Our team is a lot different this year,” said CLC sophomore Ronnie Kornbaum said. “Last year, we had a lot more sophomores and this year we have a lot of strong freshman coming in. I think we are a little bit more balanced this year with everyone scoring and putting in time. We are really looking forward to conference play. Last year in the state playoffs it really hurt. We know that being ranked No. 1 in the pre-season is great but we have to move on into conference play and win every game.”
After facing a Hibbing team that wanted to slow things down Friday, Vermilion was just fine with an up-tempo game. The key was that CLC’s shooting and points off of turnovers.
The Raiders shot 68 percent from the field in the first half and finished at 58 percent from the game.
Michael Farrington, Maurice Hernandez and Kwamaine Johnson each scored 16 points and were followed by Brandon Davis’ 15 and Kahreem Horsley’s 12.
The Raiders held the Ironmen to 36 percent from the field and scored 22 points off of turnovers.
One answer CLC did not have was stopping Vermilion’s Taylor Smaller, who finished with a game-high 33 points — 26 coming in the second half.
In the second half, CLC widened its lead despite the shooting of Smaller and grabbed a 65-43 with 12:38 left in the second half.
“We match up pretty well athletically with Vermilion and I wanted to see if we could play the fast game of up and down,” said Raiders head coach Jim Russell. “It mainly comes down to competing and that’s what I was challenging our guys on. You bring the tempo. I challenged the whole team and that is why I think we won because the whole team came to play.”
After sweeping both of their games in the Winter Classic, the Raiders now look ahead to the conference season.
“It is a special accomplishment and also for me as a coach,” said Russell about heading into conference play at 15-0. “These guys need to realize that there aren’t a lot of teams that are still undefeated. On the other side, I just wrote on the board in the locker room that 15-0 is done. Now the conference starts and what do we do from here? But it is a great accomplishment and it tells me a lot about my team what they can and can’t do. This year has been a bit harder because of all the new faces and the sophomores had a lot of questions, but we are finding the answers.”
Vermilion 30 41 — 71
Central Lakes 48 44 — 92
Alonzo Williams 3, Michael Farrington 16, Ronnie Kornbaum 8, Maurice Hernandez 16, Kwamaine Johnson 16, Brandon Davis 15, Kahreem Horsley 12, Jesse Fleming 2, Brent Koehler 4. FG 32-55 (58 percent). FT 17-38 (45 percent). Overall: 15-0. Next: CLC at Ridgewater 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Taylor Smaller 33, Dontay Mathews 3, Blake Johnson 13, Geordie Murray 7, Mikhail Gibson 4, Kemp McCray 9, Kevin Handy 2. FG 22-61 (36 percent). FT 19-29 (65 percent).