After steadily taking steps forward throughout the last month, the Central Lakes Raiders took two huge steps back in a three-day stretch.
The first was blowing a 16-point second-half lead to Mesabi, which was 2-7, Thursday. The second was Saturday when the Raiders again failed to lock up a state tournament bid by falling 61-49 to the Vermilion Ironmen, who came into the game with a 3-6 mark.
The last time the teams met on Jan. 12 Central Lakes destroyed the Ironmen 71-40 on the road. But things were much different this time around, as the Raiders lacked any sort of intensity and played with a surprising lack of urgency.
CLC coach Dennis Eastman said he was baffled after the loss to the Ironmen, who had just six players in uniform.
"I don't know what happened. I really don't know. It was our fourth game in seven days. But as a player you want to play, you don't want to have practice all week. I don't have an answer," he said. "They just outplayed us.
Vermilion 61 Raiders 49
The key: The Raiders shot 18-64 (28.1 percent) from the field
Division: CLC 5-5, V 4-6
Overall: CLC 7-17, V 7-14
Next: CLC at Northland, 6 p.m. Wednesday
"We pounced on them last time, beat them by 30 on the road. They came back and pounced on us today.
"You play so hard and you work so hard all year long and it's parents' night. We had our biggest crowd of the year and we stunk it up. It was embarrassing."
Both teams shot poorly in the first half, with the Raiders going 8-of-25 (32 percent) and the Ironmen 9-of-31 (29 percent). Central Lakes hit 3-of-8 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range but coughed the ball up 12 times. All of it added up to a Raiders' 24-22 halftime advantage.
Things were just as tight in the second half as Central Lakes held a 40-39 advantage at the midway point.
A Vermilion push had the Raiders down 48-42 with five minutes remaining.
Central Lakes cut the deficit to 50-49 at the two-minute mark but it was as close as they would get.
For the game, the Raiders shot just 18-of-64 (28.1 percent) from the field while turning the ball over 18 times. It was hardly the type of game one would expect from a team playing its final home game and with a state tournament bid on the line.
For the Ironmen, Kylea Seboe had a monster game, finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds to outduel Raiders post Becky Skiba, who finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
Now, with two devastating losses to beatable teams at home, Central Lakes will have to work hard to earn a state tournament bid with road games at Northland and Rainy River in the coming week.
Eastman said the Raiders now have a difficult road ahead of them.
"They could not have made it harder on themselves. We've always talked about winning the games you're supposed to win and we're not," he said. "Now we've got our two longest road trips of the year coming up."
Vermilion 22 39 - 61
Central Lakes 24 25 - 49
Bre Hubbard 3, Markeeta Shannon 7, Reggie Horel 9, Jayme Young 14, Sarah Beckman 4, Kylea Seboe 24. Team totals: FG 21-57 (36.8 percent), FT 16-21 76.2 percent), 3-point baskets: 3 (Horel 2, Young), Rebounds: 46 (Seboe 13), Turnovers: 17
Brandi Cresap 8, Whitney Glazier 11, Cayla Collison 5, Stacey Butler 7, Brittany Miller 5, Megan Heghal 2, Becky Skiba 11. Team totals: FG 18-64 (28.1 percent), FT 7-10 (70 percent), 3-point baskets: 6 (Cresap 2, Collison, Butler, Miller, Skiba), Rebounds: 40 (Skiba 16), Turnovers: 18
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