It was apparent from the game's opening jump ball exactly what the coaching staff of the Mesabi Norse women's basketball team intended to do to the Central Lakes College Raiders.
And it wasn't Saturday's 70-48 loss to the Raiders that Mesabi had in mind.
No, a loss was not what the Norse had planned. They intended to strike hard, fast and decisively before CLC knew what had hit them.
The Norse meant to play David to the Raiders' Goliath. Instead, Mesabi found itself knee-deep in another plot. It was an unpleasant tale about Bambi versus Godzilla and it was the Norse who were to end up oozing between those reptilian Raider toes.
The Norse came out in a full-court press defense that, as Mesabi had planned, put the Raiders back on their heels. The night before, in a win over Vermilion, CLC had turned the ball just eight times.
Against Mesabi pressure, the Raiders gave the ball away five times in the first four minutes. That total climbed to 22 before the game was through.
Those turnovers gave Mesabi a jump on the Raiders. The Norse led 10-6 six minutes into the contest. They had jumped into the lead but their jump wasn't nearly enough. Mesabi had attacked but they hadn't landed a knockout punch. They had run but not far enough to hide.
The Raiders took a timeout, shook off the effects of Mesabi's punch, collected themselves and began to play their game.
Tenacious Raider off-guard Amy Solorz made a steal. Point guard Heather Olson pushed the ball up court. Jeanna Baratto scored on a layup off a breakout on a play that has become her signature basket.
A mere four minutes later, Mesabi trailed 15-10. The Raiders had taken the punch, gotten off the floor and the Norse exchanged looks that said they knew they were in trouble.
By halftime the Raiders' advantage had swelled to 33-28. The Raiders had overcome all that Mesabi could throw at them. That included ongoing heckling from the Mesabi men's squad watching the game at courtside.
In the locker room at the half, Raiders coach Dennis Eastman knew exactly what to say to his squad.
"We talked about composure," said Eastman. "I pointed out the fact that it was us who had the lead. I told them to relax and play their game. We said, 'Hey, we have the lead, just settle it down, take our time and do the things we know we can do'.
"Then, we talked about taking out the things they were hearing from the sidelines on the team they were facing on the court."
The Raiders delivered precisely what their coach had asked. CLC played like the conference leader it is and with deadly precision the Raiders simply dispatched the Mesabi team. And they made it look easy.
The Raiders outshot, outrebounded, outhustled and outran the Norse en route to a 22-point win that was a much bigger trouncing than the score indicated.
The Raiders shot 42 percent from the field and made 67 percent of their free throws. They dominated the boards, outrebounding Mesabi 51-36 and scoring 21 second-chance points. The Raiders scored another 18 points off turnovers.
Jeanna Baratto scored 15 for the Raiders, Amy Martinson added 13 points and a dozen rebounds while Solorz added 12 points and eight boards.
Liz Reis contributed four steals. Cassey Veith and Olson each dished out five assists. Anna Struss, making noticeable strides in every game since joining the team, chipped in with seven points and five rebounds.
Eastman was obviously pleased with his team's performance and is cautiously optimistic about the Raiders' share of the top position in the Northern Division.
"Now we have Hibbing, Rainy River and Northland on the road," said Eastman. "Those games our going to be tough. Every game is important now so we'll take them one by one."
Mesabi Range (48)
Lisa Smith 6, Roxie King 7, Megan Prebeg 2, Bonnie Kiminski 6, Amy Jo Maas 6, Shelly Scheuring 6, Julie Carpenter 6, Tara Westby 9. Team totals: FG 16-57 (28 percent). FT 14-18 (78 percent).
Central Lakes (70)
Amy Solorz 12, Anna Struss 7, Mandy Moore 5, Jeanna Baratto 15, Heather Olson 3, Beth Frost 3, Cassey Veith 6, Liz Reis 6, Amy Martinson 13. Team totals: FG 28-67 (42 percent). FT 12-18 (67 percent). Conference -- 7-1. Overall -- 12-5. Next game: at Hibbing 6 p.m. Wednesday.
3-point baskets -- CLC 2, Moore, Olson; M 2, King. Rebounds -- CLC 51, Martinson 12, Solorz 8; M 36, Maas 6, Westby 6. Turnovers -- CLC 22; M 18. Total fouls -- CLC 18; M 17. Assists -- CLC 20, Olson 5, Veith 5; M 7. Steals -- CLC 14, Reis 4, Olson 3; M 12. Blocks -- CLC 2, Martinson. Halftime -- CLC 33; M 28.
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