It’s stretch run time and the Central Lakes College Raiders took another step in the right direction with an 80-56 Northern Division win over Rainy River Saturday.
The Raiders shot 49 percent from the field, while allowing just 32 percent shooting from the Voyagers. CLC limited them to 26 second-half points.
The Raiders won for the fourth straight time in division play and upped their record to 6-2 in the division and 13-7 overall.
Andre Thomas led CLC with 16 points and four assists. Tyler Flugum finished with 12 points and Kevin Kuefler and Bryan Gichaba each tallied 11.
Ten different players scored for the Raiders as their bench outscored Rainy River 36-7. Sophomore Brent Koehler came off the bench and finished with four points and five rebounds in 10 minutes.
“He does the little things for us and scores around the basket,” said Raiders head coach Jim Russell. “He was another sophomore that didn’t get a lof of minutes last year. Right now, if the season was over, he would probably be our most improved player. He doesn’t quit and he continues to grow and that’s what this team is about.”
Tempo was the key as the Raiders pushed the ball. Rainy River was able to keep up the pace early, but two straight 3-pointers from Flugum extended the Raiders lead to 27-20. CLC pushed the lead to 12 at halftime.
“That was our gameplan to make the game a little faster,” Russell said. “We learned a lot from the Hibbing game where we lost by a point. We preached defense, but we forgot that a little bit. I think that we have learned that defense is what establishes our tempo.”
In the second half, the Raiders opened with just five points in the first seven minutes, but Rainy River was not able to cut into the lead. Thomas then finished off a six-point Raiders’ run with a layup to give CLC a 54-38 lead.
“Defense is always something that you can control,” said Kuefler. “Defensive energy is always something that you can control so while your shots aren’t falling, we have our defense to fall back on .”
The Voyagers had four players play 34 minutes or more. That started to take its toll. The Raiders finished off the last 10 minutes with a 24-16 margin in scoring.
“I know their bench was a little weak so we were trying to get up and down the floor to wear them out,” Kuefler said. “In the end, I think our shots fell because we had our legs and it was the opposite for them. We stepped up big and that is what it is going to take to win this division.”
The Raiders have six games remaining before playoffs. Russell sees the focus being there for the stretch run.
“You have to remember that we are taking baby steps,” he said. “We want to get better each game and we are doing that. The guys are getting more confidence in what we want to do and it was nice to see our shooters get some three’s to open the offense up.”
Rainy River 30 26 — 56
Central Lakes 42 38 — 80
Joshua Pierre 17, Alcie Butler 11, Jeff Romeus 17, Ben Churilla 1, Spencer Collins 4, Shane Mitchell 6. FG 18-56 (32 percent). FT 15-20 (75 percent). 3-point 5-19 (26 percent).
Andre Thomas 16, Nathan Holm 5, Tyler Flugum 12, Kevin Kuefler 11, Bryan Gichaba 11, Brandon Davis 6, Kahreem Horsley 9, John Jedneak 2, Herbert Tarpeh 4, Brent Koehler 4. FG 34-69 (49 percent). FT 6-13 (46 percent). 3-point 6-14 (43 percent). Division: 6-2. Overall 13-7. Next: CLC at Fond du Lac 8 p.m. Wednesday.