The Central Lakes College women's basketball team has not had success against Itasca the last few years. The Vikings had pretty much dominated CLC on their way to winning three straight Northern Division championships.
The Raiders got the monkey off their backs Wednesday in a 68-63 victory in the Northern Division opener for both teams.
CLC was led in scoring by Stephanie Neugebauer and Becky Skiba with 16 points each.
Itasca came into the game with the top three-point shooters in the division. The Vikings had also taken almost 200 more three-point shots than the Raiders. Skiba said that practicing against the football team benefited the Raiders.
"We have been playing against the guys from the football team and that has been preparing us to get out defensively and get quicker because they can shoot threes," she said. " We just played good man-to-man defense and we should be able to do that all the time."
CLC 68, Itasca 63
The key: The Raiders limited the Vikings to 34-percent shooting.
North Division: CLC 1-0, Ita 0-1.
Overall: CLC 7-3, Ita 9-4.
Next: CLC at Mesabi Range at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Raiders' defense was effective as Itasca shot only 31 percent from behind the arc. The Vikings put up 32 threes and only made 10.
Itasca jumped off to an early lead in the first half. CLC struggled from the field and found itself in the position that Itasca was in, missing shots from behind the arc. The Raiders got back on track late in the half to take a 32-27 lead to the locker room behind 14 points off the bench from Carissa Utsch.
"They were worried about Becky on the inside and were leaving us open," CLC coach Dennis Eastman said. " We had scrimmaged against them early in the season and that was one area where we thought we could take advantage of them but they took that away so we went for threes and in the beginning we didn't make very many.
"We just kept working at it and made adjustments on offense and moved Becky away from the basket and it left the middle open so it worked out."
Going into the game, Eastman wanted the Vikings to prove they could put the ball on the floor and provide inside scoring from a post position.
"I wanted to make sure their inside people could score against us," he said. "I wanted them to put the ball on the floor and drive and I didn't think they could do that, but they proved me wrong. Our rotation that we have worked on did help us a lot.
"I was worried about their three-point shooting and they handled the ball better than I expected. We really made a conscious effort to rotate quickly to get on the open shooter. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."
In the second half, the Raiders moved Skiba away from the basket and moved Neugebauer to the post. The move paid dividends as Neugebauer poured in eight straight points and CLC opened up a 13 point lead.
"What we did was move Becky away from the basket and put Stephanie down low because Stephanie had a shorter person guarding her," Eastman said. "I wanted to move their big girl away from the basket. Becky is a good outside shooter, and I wanted to isolate Stephanie on the inside if I could."
Itasca clawed its way back into the game and took a 56-55 lead with 6.5 minutes left. The Raiders kept their poise and Skiba put the game out of reach with a three-pointer and a layup.
"Last year they were undefeated in the division and our record wasn't that good at all," Skiba said. "This was a really good game to see where we are at in the division."
Itasca 27 36 - 63
Central Lakes 32 36 - 68
Megan Cleveland 12, Erica Cleveland 22, Mellisa Barbacovi 6, Cassie Clarke 2, Lexi Daniels 15, Amanda Beck 2, Katie McBride 4. FG 22-64 (34 percent), FT 9-12. Three-point baskets: (M. Cleveland 4, E. Cleveland 2, Barbacovi 2, Daniels).
Brandi Cresap 3, Stephanie Neugebauer 16, Cayla Collison 4, Cassie Pearson 7, Brittany Miller 6, Erika Saima 2, Becky Skiba 16, Carissa Utsch 14. FG 24-70 (34 percent), FT 12-16 (75 percent), Three-point baskets: (Cresap, Pearson, Miller, Skiba, Utsch 5).
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