The Central Lakes College Raiders saved their finest defensive effort for the last game of the season as they defeated the Rochester Yellowjackets 69-54 and won the Southern Division title Saturday.
It was the final regular-season game for both teams with the Region 13 tournament beginning at Anoka-Ramsey on Friday. CLC entered the game ranked fourth in NJCAA Division III.
Michael Farrington finished with 15 points two assists and four steals to lead CLC. Maurice Hernandez tallied 13 points for the Raiders, who shot 51 percent from the field.
On the defensive side, CLC allowed the Yellowjackets to shoot just 31 percent and held them to 20 points in the first half.
“It had to be our best defensive performance of the season,” said CLC coach Jim Russell. “This is Rochester and they have been to nationals two years in a row. For us to do that says a lot about our sophomores, how much they really wanted this and they just stepped up.”
The Raiders’ stifling defense held Rochester without a field goal from the 7-minute mark of the first half to the 14:08 mark of the second, a span of almost 13 minutes. During that time, CLC outscored the Yellowjackets 30-8 to put the game away.
“We did come out with a purpose, but not just from the starters,” said CLC’s Kwamaine Johnson, who finished with 10 points and five assists. “The bench came up big for us and I think that is why we were able to hold them to just the 13 points for that long period of time.
“The bench came in and gave lots of energy, and it gave us the chance to come back in with energy.”
The Yellowjackets actually outscored the Raiders 11-8 off the bench, but defensive intensity was the key.
In the first half, Rochester started strong and took a 9-2 lead before CLC started working its way back into the game. The Raiders tied the game at 19 at the 7-minute mark of the first and led 35-20.
After the Yellowjackets made their first basket of the second half to cut the Raiders lead to 49-27, the teams traded baskets for the rest of the game.
“After losing to Fergus Falls we knew this was a must-win game and I thought the guys handled the pressure really well,” Johnson said. “We came out ready to play and we got the win.”
The attention now turns to the region tournament that starts Friday. The Raiders are the No. 1 seed and will play Mesabi Range at 7 p.m. Friday.
“This week in practice was all about going back to what we do,” said Russell. “We have three goals. One, was to win in the preseason, which we did. Two, was to win the division, which we did and now we need to win at the region tournament.”
Rochester 20 34 — 54
Central Lakes 35 34 — 69
Derrick Cattryse 9, Evan Morris 2, Shiron Williams 7, Kenny Harper 8, Torren Dowdy 16, Deuntae Broadnax 3, Vincent Carey 9. FG 20-64 (31 percent). FT 12-16 (75 percent). 3-point 2-17 (12 percent). Division: 7-4. Overall: 18-7.
Alonzo Williams 2, Michael Farrington 15, Ronnie Kornbaum 11, Maurice Hernandez 13, Kwamaine Johnson 10, Brandon Davis 12, Matt Christenson 2, Jesse Fleming 4. FG 26-51 (51 percent). FT 13-23 (56 percent) 3-point 4-12 (33 percent). Division: 9-3. Overall: 24-3. Next: vs. Mesabi Range 7 p.m. Friday in Region 13 tournament at Anoka-Ramsey.