LOCH SHELDRAKE, N.Y. — Following a heartbreaking loss Thursday, the Central Lakes College Raiders rallied Friday to defeat the Milwaukee Area Technical College Stormers 81-76 in the consolation semifinals of the NJCAA National Tournament at SUNY Sullivan College.
With almost two-dozen Minnesotans sitting behind the Raiders’ bench, including CLC President Larry Lundblad and his wife, Karen, the Raiders were able to play in a different atmosphere from Thursday’s large crowd of nearby Delhi supporters, who drowned out the Brainerd group.
With excellent ball movement, four 3-pointers by Ronnie Kornbaum, and great bench play by Cody Hofmann, Roberto Lopez, Matt Christenson, Brent Koehler, Dylan Moorlag, Antonio Wigall and Kahreem Horsley, CLC evened its tournament record at 1-1.
“All of us from CLC were very disappointed after (Thursday’s) game,” said Lundblad. “This is a really great team, good kids, and the entire experience of coming to this tournament, and spending some time in New York City and here in upstate New York, is a very rewarding experience for these student-athletes.”
All 14 Raiders played in the first half, with Kornbaum leading the scorers with four threes and 12 points and Brandon Davis chipping in with eight.
Kornbaum’s long-distance shots were missing the mark in the second half, however, but teammates took over the scoring, led by Jesse Fleming and Maurice Hernandez, to widen the CLC lead to 52-42 at 11:10.
It was a matter of time before the Stormers would storm back, and at the 8:00 mark they made their move, with Nate Melchior hitting a 3-pointer, Rishaad Alexander putting up threes, and CLC turnovers contributing to a 6-point lead before Kwamaine Johnson sank two free throws, and Michael Farrington, Brandon Davis and Ronnie Kornbaum drove for layups, bringing CLC’s lead back to nine.
With five minutes to go the Minnesota crowd was vocal, cheering CLC when a timeout was called by Milwaukee with CLC leading 63-54. As the home crowd was chanting “Defense, defense,” Hernandez stole the ball and backhanded a no-look pass to Davis, who threw a beautiful bounce pass to Fleming for a fast-break layup.
A minute later, Kwamaine Johnson scored another layup on a turnover and the Raiders led 71-61 with 1:45 left.
Milwaukee was not going to make it an easy win for CLC, as it pulled within 74-67, at 1:03. Memories of Thursday’s last-second loss were on everyone’s mind as CLC came out of a timeout and Brandon Davis was quickly fouled. Davis made both shots and CLC was up 76-67 with 42 seconds on the clock.
With Milwaukee fouling CLC on every possession, the Raiders needed to be perfect to maintain their lead, but after several missed foul shots, and good long-range threes by Milwaukee cut the CLC lead to four with 7.2 seconds, it came down to a rebound by Kornbaum to finally close out the game.
“These boys are real champions,” said Tashana Husom, a CLC counselor and faculty member who was part of the Minnesota contingent that made the trip. “It was so nice to see them win this game.”
Twenty-four hours can make a difference in sports, and Friday the CLC locker room was filled with a happy bunch of Raiders. Cody Hoffmann, whose parents Tim and Lisa Hoffmann of Cottage Grove, were in the audience, said CLC “played well as a team today, like we have all year. When we are playing our game we can beat anyone, and it was good to give our parents and community fans a win at nationals.”
CLC coach Jim Russell said it was difficult to play a consolation game.
“But we were playing for pride, and our game, built on sharing the ball and strong defense, kicked in today and we executed very well,” he said. “The fact that everyone played today, and every player had a role in this win, is very satisfying.”
Other Minnesota fans attending included Roger and Diane Christenson (son Matt is on the team), the Eltons (Jennifer, Kevin and Katlyn) from Milaca, Don and Julee Moorlag (son Dylan is on the team), Jackee and Cabot Bekius from Avon, and long-time fans Bill Ribbel and his wife Deborah Jacobs from Nisswa.
Kornbaum led CLC with 19 points, Hernandez added 14, and Johnson Davis both had 14. Michael Harrington had seven assists.
CLC turned the ball over only 10 times and blocked five shots.
MILWAUKEE AREA TECH
Rishad Alexander 26, Clem Robinson 11, Tevin Rumley 9, Patrick Zemanovic 8, Nate Melchior 10, Steven Pratt 3, Danny Sanders 9. FG 28-79 (35 percent). FT 12-19 (63 percent). 3-point 8-32 (25 percent ). Overall: 22-13.
Michael Farrington 6, Ronnie Kornbaum 19, Maurice Hernandez 14, Kwamaine Johnson 12, Brandon Davis 14, Roberto Lopez 2, Matt Christenson 4, Jesse Fleming 10. FG 30-66 (45 percent). FT 17-26 (65 percent). 3-point 4-16 (25 percent).