The Central Lakes College Raiders have an opportunity to clinch a postseason No. 1 seed and remove the bitter taste from their mouth after last year’s early playoff exit.
They remained focused Saturday with a workmanlike 97-73 victory over Ridgewater in Brainerd.
Kwamaine Johnson led all scorers with 24 points and Maurice Hernandez finished with 21. Brandon Davis scored 11 of CLC’s first 13 points and finished with 18.
Ridgewater, 0-2 in division play, remained close with solid shooting from behind the 3-point line, but couldn’t sustain the effort in the second half.
“We went into the game knowing it wasn’t going to be easy,” Raiders head coach Jim Russell said, “but we stress 40 minutes not 20. We figured they could make some shots, but as the game went on they were getting tired and we were still playing hard.
“They are a good ball club, but they didn’t have any height or speed to go with us. Overall, we moved the ball well and shared the basketball. We were pleased with our effort.”
In addition to Davis’ fast start, the Raiders got early points from Johnson, who finished 3-for-4 from 3-point in the first half.
“They were leaving me open and coach says to shoot if you are open,” Johnson said. “We did a great job on working the ball around and making the extra pass to get me open and that’s how I was able to knock down some shots.”
Ridgewater fell behind 13-6, but timely shots allowed it to tie the game at 24 with 8:40 left in the first half. Ridgewater finished 9-of-17 and outscored the Raiders 27-15 from 3-point in the first half.
CLC answered with a 22-11 run to claim a 46-35 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Raiders took control early and led 53-35 at the 18 minute mark. Another 3-pointer from Johnson gave the Raiders a 67-50 lead.
The Raiders will host three of the last five games, including a regular season finale against defending division champion Rochester.
“Seeing how we have three more games now, it is all about defending our court,” Johnson said. “We have pretty much taken care of business on the road so we look forward to getting these games out of the way and heading into the tournament.”
Ridgewater 35 38 — 73
Central Lakes 46 51 — 97
Zak Pendleton 15, Neil Helgeson 16, Jamie Boonstra 5, Jake Ruhland 4, Jake Rambow 9, Jordan Schwarz 3, Tyler Pendleton 17, Zach Henning 2, Cody Warner 2. FG 24-49 (49 percent ). FT 12-13 (92 percent ).
Alonzo Williams 3, Cody Hoffman 2, Michael Farrington 12, Roberto Lopez 5, Ronnie Kornbaum 5, Maurice Hernandez 21, Matt Christenson 4, Kwamaine Johnson 24, Brandon Davis 18, Jesse Fleming 1, Brent Kohler 2. FG 37-67 (55.2 percent). FT 11-26 (42 percent). Overall: 20-1. Division: 6-1.