Of all the scenarios that could have spelled defeat for the Central Lakes College women's basketball team, the most unlikely played out Wednesday as the Raiders fell.
Itasca came away with the 71-66 win thanks to some lethal three-point shooting in the second half, something it had struggled with all season, coming into the game shooting 28.3 percent from beyond the arc.
It wasn't the Vikings' outside shooting the Raiders prepared for. Rather it was Itasca's two dominating post players; Megan Zubke, averaging 17.6 ppg and 10.3 ppg and Amber Schaaf, averaging 12.5 ppg and 13.5 rpg.
Central Lakes College's freshmen guards Jayme Reed (25) and Cayla Collison reacted in the waning moments of Wednesday's game. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood» Purchase reprints of this photo.
And while both put up numbers close to their season averages, it was the Vikings' second half three-point shooting, in which they hit 6-11 (54.5 percent), that ultimately snatched victory from Central Lakes' hands.
Stacey Butler, who finished with nine points, said the Raiders weren't expecting the efficient second-half outside shooting.
"We were prepared for their height advantage. We pretty much wanted to pull their tall girls out and I think we did a pretty good job at it," she said. "On offense, we had some pretty good movement but we just couldn't hit a three and then they hit some big threes we weren't expecting."
Things were tight in the game's final minutes with Itasca holding a slight 61-58 advantage with two minutes to play. After the Raiders made it 61-60, Itasca responded with a Jaimie Fosness three. Things were back and forth from that point on with CLC cutting the deficit to 67-66 with 14.2 seconds remaining. The Raiders had one more chance to tie it, down 69-66, before Becky Skiba missed a three.
Itasca 71, Raiders 66
The key: Itasca hit 6-11 (54.5 percent) from three-point range in the second half compared to CLC's 0-7 performance
Conference: CLC 3-2, Itasca 5-0
Overall: CLC 5-14, Itasca 12-7
Next: CLC at Mesabi Range, 1 p.m. Saturday
Aside from long range shots, the statistics were near even for the game. CLC finished 27-62 (43.5 percent) from the field while grabbing 36 rebounds and turning the ball over 11 times. The Vikings finished 26-59 (44.1 percent) from the field, grabbing 41 rebounds and committing 13 turnovers.
It all added up to a game in which the largest advantage was just seven points, with CLC up 45-38 with just over ten minutes remaining.
The run-and-gun style helped the Raiders put up 38 second-half points, but Itasca countered with 46, 18 coming by way of the three-point shot.
Coach Dennis Eastman said it was a difficult loss to swallow but added that it may have been the best his team has played this season.
"Overall I was happy with our game. We played really well. We just didn't do some things at the end," he said. "We're taking some big steps now, but we only have a few games left in the conference. It's coming. I just hope there's enough season left to get to where we want to be."
Itasca 25 46 - 71
Central Lakes 28 38 - 66
Melissa Barbacovi 2, Amber Schaaf 15, Jaimie Fosness 12, Erica Cleveland 19, Natasha Hamilton 2, Cassie Clarke 4, Megan Zubke 17. Team totals: FG 26-59 (44.1 percent), FT 11-21 (52.4 percent), 3-point baskets: 8-22 (36.4 percent) (Cleveland 4, Fosness 4), Turnovers 13, Rebounds 41 (Schaaf 10, Zubke 9).
Brandi Cresap 12, Whitney Glazier 8, Cayla Collison 4, Stacey Butler 9, Brittany Miller 7, Jayme Reed 10, Megan Hejhal 2, Becky Skiba 14. Team totals: FG 27-62 (43.5 percent), FT 12-17 (70.6 percent), 3-point baskets: 0-12, Turnovers 11, Rebounds 36 (Glazier 9).
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