The Central Lakes College Raiders faced a team intent on slowing them down, but a strong transition game and defense proved to be the key in a 79-64 Northern Division win over the Itasca Vikings.
The Raiders and Vikings entered the game with identical 3-2 division records.
Kevin Kuefler finished with 15 points, and Kahreem Horsley and Andre Thomas each finished with 14 points apiece.
Shooting was an area of struggle for CLC where it finished just 26-74 from the field (35 percent). That also included a 4-27 shooting day from behind the arc.
“I think we held our composure and the defense dictated everything,” said CLC coach Jim Russell. “We started to see buckets as a result of our defense. We knew that if we could keep them out of the lane, contain them, and rebound, we would win the game and I think the guys did that.
“Teams try to slow us down to a half-court game and our three-point shooting hasn’t been good. But we moved the ball well and it helped us get into a rhythm.”
Itasca started out quickly with a six-point run, but the Raiders responded with a 10-point run and at the 11:24 mark led 17-11 after a Brandon Davis layup. The margin stayed that way at the end of the first half as the Raiders led 36-30.
The shooting struggles continued in the second half, but CLC started to clamp down defensively, and it was the major factor in taking over the game.
“One thing the guys need to learn is if the shooting isn’t going well you have to provide something else and I think our guys are still learning that,” said Russell. “But we continued to move the ball and we had a 14-3 advantage on them in assists, which was big.”
Thomas was one of the key contributors in the second half, finishing with seven points, but also moving the ball around on the offensive end to get his teammates involved.
“My coaches told me to stay aggressive and to keep shooting,” Thomas said. “During warmups they told me even though your shot may not be falling keep taking it. I came out with the mindset that I was going to get my team involved and that’s what I did.
“I am getting comfortable at forming into a real point guard. When I came in, I was like a 2-guard, but playing under coach Russell I am getting the skills of a point guard.”
Late in the second half, frustration set in for the Vikings and players had to be separated after a skirmish under the Vikings basket.
However, the Raiders held their composure and didn’t get anyone ejected, which would have resulted in a one-game suspension. The teams combined for 50 fouls, and shot a collective 55 free throws.
“Games like this that get ugly can help improve chemistry for everyone and is a team-bonding experience to compete in a conference game,” said Russell. “When things don’t go well we have to work to continue to get better.”
Itasca 30 34 — 64
Central Lakes 36 43 — 79
Tadd Dunn 8, Shawn Atkins 20, Ter’ra Potter 5, Jade Lecouq 5, Preston Hurd 2, Jarod Wyatt 9, Daulton Levra 14, Taylor Woodwick 1. FG 21-62 (34 percent), FT 17-24 (71 percent), 3-Point 5-23 (22 percent).
Benji Subah 2, Andre Thomas 14, Nathan Holm 6, Tyler Flugum 8, Kevin Kuefler 15, Bryan Gichaba 10, Brandon Davis 6, Kahreem Horsley 2, John Jedneak 14, Herbert Tarpeh 2. FG 26-74 (35 percent), FT 23-31 (74 percent), 3-Point 4-27. Division: 4-2. Overall: 11-7. Next: at Northland 8 p.m. Wednesday.