Central Lakes College men’s head coach Jim Russell was honored Wednesday night for his 300th win on Dec. 14. His players gave him another reason to celebrate with a 70-48 win over Fond Du Lac in the divisional home opener for the Raiders.
Despite shooting just 33 percent in the first half, and 2-11 from behind the arc, CLC shot 44 percent in the second half to pull away from the Thunder.
“We talked at halftime about being a little more patient and moving the ball so that we can get into a rhythm,” said Russell. “That is what needs to happen when you aren’t shooting the ball really well. They were challenging us to shoot the outside shot but when it’s not falling you need to find something else.”
Bryan Gichaba led the way for CLC with 18 points off the bench and was followed by Kevin Kuefler with 14. John Jedneak also made it into double figures with 11 points.
The Raiders moved to 2-1 in divisional play while the Thunderhawks slipped to 0-3.
The shooting struggles in the first half are part of the growing pains that CLC is going through this season, Russell said. Russell reached his milestone win this year with a team that is not unlike a lot of his other Raider teams — a team with a lot of talent but also a group that is learning to work together.
“Every day is a learning process with this team,” Russell said. “I think our biggest challenge is trying to get them all on the same page and that has been hard. They all come from such different backgrounds and they don’t understand what I like the intensity to be. For all of them to come together it has been difficult. We are slowly learning and developing and right now we are looking to get them ready for the post season.”
Those who watch the Raiders know that coach Russell is an intense and demanding coach. He is also a coach who cares deeply about getting the best that he can out of his players.
“The biggest thing right now with our struggles and slow steps is that it’s all about us understanding each other,” he said. “I tell the guys that I coach from the heart and so I like for (them) to play with your heart. They are trying to figure that out and I’m trying to get it out of them. It’s a process but it’s a group of guys who love the game and they are learning to play at another level. People don’t realize how fast and physical it is but we’re getting there.”
Russell also gave credit to his coaching staff for working each day in practice to get the team prepared.
“It’s been great and this year we have really been coaching. We need to get down to the little stuff. Hopefully soon we will grab on to it and get going. It is a great staff and I am a very lucky guy to have a staff like that. Especially at this level where I am tripling their pay every year times zero. It is a special group.”
Fond Du Lac 26 22 — 48
Central Lakes 31 39 — 70
FOND DU LAC
Deandre Jourdain 3, Nicholas Brown 7, Martin Tronou 2, Kyle Gordon 8, Michael Hall 24, Benjamin Shultz 4. FG 18-53 (34 percent), FT 7-12 (58 percent), 3-point 5-19 (26 percent).
Benji Subah 2, Andre Thomas 4, Nathan Holm 6, Kevin Kuefler 14, Bryan Gichaba 18, Brandon Davis 8, Kahreem Horsley 2, John Jedneak 11, Herbert Tarpeh 1, Brent Koehler 4. FG 28-72 (39 percent), FT 11-20 (55 percent), 3-point 3-18 (17 percent). Division: 2-1. Overall: 9-6. Next: vs. Vermilion at Ely 3 p.m. Saturday.