The Central Lakes College Raiders needed a strong encore performance Saturday and they got one from Nash Faulk.
The sophomore from Howard Lake scored 35 points to lead the No. 5-ranked Raiders past the Norse 83-74 and lift their record to 10-0.
Maurice Hernandez finished with 16 points, and Kendall Brown totaled 12, but the Raiders shot only 38 percent from the field.
The Raiders were coming off a strong performance against Vermilion on Friday, and the game against the Norse was a rematch from a 105-35 CLC win Nov. 19 at Ridgewater.
Fans who showed up Saturday were probably expecting CLC to coast to victory, but Mesabi came with energy and a game plan and made life difficult for the Raiders.
It didn't look that way early as CLC jumped to a 14-point lead behind two threes from Faulk and one from Hernandez. Mesabi slowed the pace of the game after that, and Scott Golobich was matching Faulk from long distance as the Norse trailed the Raiders by six at halftime.
CLC coach Jim Russell is known for calling his team out when they are not playing with energy, but he stayed calm during the close first half.
"You've gotta give people credit. I told the guys on the bench that if someone knocks you on your you know what, you gotta get up. You don't have a choice," he said.
"They got beat up by us last time, losing by 70," he added. "They're human too and they got up. The challenge was how do you handle that. We needed a challenge and this was an awakening for us. On the other hand, our effort and teamwork was still there. Mesabi just made some shots."
One stat that didn't please Russell was a 16-0 disparity in points off the bench for Mesabi. The Norse outscored the Raiders 27-3 in points off the bench.
"We kind of knew coming in here that they were going to sit in a zone and put us to sleep," Russell said.
"That was a challenge for us and so was the bench," he added. "Give them credit for coming here and attacking us instead of us attacking them.
"The bench was a little disappointing. It was a hard game to substitute. We were trying to find someone to come out and play. I'm glad it happened now because it is one of those lessons."
In the second half, CLC widened its lead to 48-36. Mesabi started to come back and the Norse took their first lead at 58-57 at the 9:51 mark. The teams traded baskets until the Raiders widened the lead with a three from Marcus Ayala, and four threes by Faulk, who finished with 21 points in the second half.
Faulk was also impressed with the way Mesabi fought back.
"They came out with a good game plan to slow us down," he said. "We normally average about 90 points a game, and they slowed us down a lot. We can't live and die by the three like we did today.
"They didn't quit. They played hard and I respect them for the way they played. It felt good today. They were sitting in a zone so I was getting my stroke and it felt good."
Mesabi 34 40 - 74
Central Lakes 40 43 - 83
EJ Welch 4, Torrie White 4, Stanley Hobson 11, Jesse Briggity 13, William Reyes 12, Steve Golobich 20, Issaih Bridges 10. FG 28-66(42 percent), FT 7-8 (88 percent).
Marcus Ayala 11, Nash Faulk 35, Maurice Hernandez 16, Kendall Brown 12, Kwamaine Johnson 6, Anthony Kelley 3. FG 27-72 (38 percent), FT 15-23 (65 percent). Overall: 10-0. Next: vs. Northland at Thief River Falls 8 p.m. Friday.