The Central Lakes College Raiders hosted the Lady Jays from Minnesota West in the opening round of the CLC Winter Classic Friday night.
The Raiders matched up with Minnesota West in every statistical category except for free throws and the final score.
The Blue Jays outshot the Raiders 10-2 from the free throw line. It was the difference as CLC dropped their fifth straight game, 61-54. The Raiders now will get ready for their Northern Division opener Jan. 11 at Rainy River in International Falls.
“This is the second game in a row where we didn’t play that bad,” said CLC coach Dennis Eastman. “We focus on winning so much because we haven’t won.
“Now it gets serious because next week we are 0-0. It doesn’t matter what our record is now, it matters what we do in the next four weeks. There’s no baby steps now, we have to start winning.”
Lindsay Monson led CLC with 16 points, and Sierra Benning also finished in double figures with 11. The Raiders shot 40 percent from the field, while the Blue Jays were held to 36 percent.
In the second half, Minnesota West went to the line 14 times while the Raiders didn’t attempt a free throw.
Monson scored six points in the first half, and kept the Raiders in the game with 10 second-half points. Eastman pointed out that recognizing where Monson is on the floor is one of the key things that CLC needs to work on.
“I think that Lindsay has had eight double-doubles in 11 games. Her biggest asset is that she runs the court really well. We are starting to see her more and get the ball to her.”
Her counterpart, Jalynn Lamb, attempted just six shots and made one, finishing with two points.
“We also need to start getting the ball to Jalynn a little more,” Eastman said.
Both teams struggled with their shooting, but Minnesota West was able to build a 16-11 advantage with 6:55 left in the half.
The Raiders, led by Monson and Carlie Sweet, picked up the intensity and the transition game and outscored the Blue Jays 11-4 to end the half and take a 22-20 lead to the locker room.
“We were kind of kidding about that at halftime, saying why can’t we do that all the time,” Eastman said. “If I could figure that out, I would probably be in the NBA right now, but it’s one of those things where it just takes time.
“We are getting there, but we are at point B and I want to be at point A now. As a coach you are never striving to be at point B. On Monday, we’ll roll the basketballs out and start after it again.”
Both teams picked up their scoring in the second half with the Raiders finishing with 32 second-half points, and the Blue Jays accumulating 41. Monson continued her scoring and was also complemented by seven points from Sierra Benning, and four from Jessica Kadus and Ashley Arenson. CLC cut the lead to 58-54 with 28 seconds left, but was not able to get any closer.
Minnesota West scored its last three points from the free throw line, which was a fitting way for the game to end. The Raiders now have a week to prepare for Rainy River. The week will give the Raiders an opportunity to take that final step.
Minnesota West 20 41 — 61
Central Lakes 22 32 — 54
Mara Eichenberger 6, Katherine Kazemba 6, Tiffany Gehl 15, Brittany Hulstein 20, Lindsey Drooger 10, Katey Granstra 4. FG 24-67 (36 percent), FT 10-17 (59 percent). 3-point 3-15 (20 percent).
Sierra Benning 11, Jessica Kadus 6, Ashley Arenson 8, Taalyr Egeness 6, Carlie Sweet 5, Lindsay Monson 16, Jalynn Lamb 2. FG 25-62 (40 percent), FT 2-10 (20 percent). 3-point 2-11(18 percent). Overall: 1-10. Next: at Rainy River 6 p.m. Friday.