Undisputed first place in the Northern Division was at stake.
Central Lakes College entered Wednesday's game with the division's No. 1 defense (63.8 points a game).
The Northland Pioneers brought the division's No. 2 offense (83.3 a game).
Something had to budge and it wound up being Northland's offense as the Raiders confined the Pioneers to 39-percent shooting in a 66-56 CLC victory.
CLC held point guard Terrel Lipkins, who leads the Pioneers in scoring (20.1 a game), ranks second in the division in 3-point shooting and third in scoring, to 17 points. Rico Wells, a returning all-conference player who averages 15.4 points, ended with seven. And, Marco Richardson, who averages 12.5 points, managed just six.
Milos Prijovic (left) of Central Lakes College and Seth Akason of Northland battled for a loose ball Wednesday at CLC. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey
The Raiders didn't allow too many second chances, maintaining a 37-29 edge on the boards.
"During practice we really focused on defensive rebounding, we did a good job on that today," Raiders forward Nash Faulk said. "We really shut them down. Everybody stepped up and played good defense. I'm proud of the guys. They did a great job."
Raiders coach Jim Russell agreed.
"We figured if we can play some defense the scoring will come," he said. "The best part was there were some things we did that we never worked on, but we went out and did them ourselves. Yasin (Jama), Nash, those guys really stepped up and denied their best player (Lipkins) the ball. He didn't get a lot of shots. Usually, he gets a lot more than that.
"I have to credit our big guys. We rebounded tonight. Defensively, golly, as a coach you can't ask for a better effort than that. Every guy who came off the bench played like he wanted it."
Following a sluggish first half, CLC outscored the Pioneers 44-38 in the second as Faulk got hot. Scoreless in the first, he scored all of his team-high 15 points in the second, making all five of his shots and 3 of 4 free throws.
CLC 66, Northland 56
The key: The Raiders limited Northland to 39-percent shooting.
Division: CLC 5-0, Nor 4-1
Overall: CLC 15-3, Nor 13-5
Next: CLC vs. Vermilion at Ely 3 p.m. Saturday.
"They were denying me a little bit in the first half," he said. "I wasn't going to force anything. The second half it just came to me and I hit some shots."
Actually, all the Raiders did. After shooting 34.6 percent in the first, CLC shot an even 60 percent in the second to finish the night at 47.1 percent.
"We wanted to run a little more," Russell said of the more productive second half. "You could tell they were a little tired, and we were just getting our legs underneath us. Our shots started falling more, and we attacked the basket a little bit better. They were up on us pretty hard.
"An adjustment we made was we picked on the ball a little more. Instead of passing we started dribbling a little more. Dribbling is always a rhythm shooting thing, and that helped."
CLC scored the first six points in the second, 11 of the first 15, for a 33-24 lead. But the Pioneers stayed close and stormed back to tie it at 56 with 3:12 remaining.
The Raiders proceeded to score the game's last 10 points, five at the foul line.
Every CLC starter was in double digits as Milos Prijovic added 13 points and nine rebounds. Nick Grewe had 11 points and seven boards. Marcus Ayala had 11 points and Jama 10.
They helped CLC improve to 5-0 in the division, 15-3 overall, with its sixth straight win.
"Everyone's going to be coming after us," Faulk said of being in first place all alone, "but that's what we want."
In the first half the Raiders controlled the pace, limiting Northland to 28.6 shooting and forcing 11 turnovers, but getting only four points off them.
CLC didn't shoot much better in the first (34.6 percent), missed 5 of 6 free throws and committed 10 turnovers but found enough offense to take a 22-18 lead at the intermission.
Northland 18 38 - 56
Central Lakes 22 44 - 66
Terrel Lipkins 17, Marco Richardson 6, Clinton Cuffee 1, Seth Akason 10, Damontay Matthews 9, Ricardo Wells 7, Chris Williams 2, AJ Cox 4. FG 23-59 (39 percent), FT 3-6. Three-point baskets: Lipkins 3, Wells, Matthews 3. Turnovers: 16.
Marcus Ayala 11, Nash Faulk 15, Yasin Jama 10, Nick Grewe 11, Milos Prijovic 13, Ahmed Farah 6. FG 24-51 (47.1 percent), FT 13-20. Three-point baskets: Faulk 2, Jama 2, Prijovic. Turnovers: 13. Rebounds: 37 (Prijovic 9, Grewe 7).
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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