Saturday's contest between the Central Lakes College men's basketball team and the Vermilion Ironmen was a study in contrast.
On one side was Vermilion, which has players littered up and down the weekly statistical rankings. The Ironmen have the state's top scorer and 3-point shooter in guard Adam Kado and the North Division's top rebounder in Cornell Thomas.
On the other side are the Raiders, who have just four players who show up in the weekly stats and no player leading any category.
But only one of these teams is riding an eight-game win streak and sitting second in the division standings. After their 72-63 handling of the Ironmen, the Raiders extended that win streak to nine, setting up a showdown on the road with division leader Northland on Wednesday.
"We have to be smarter than other teams and we have to outwork them," Raiders coach Jim Russell said. "We've been preaching that since we lost to Northland in the division opener. The guys see that now and they believe it. They're sharing the basketball and doing the little things. That's why we're winning."
"Our team plays together, we don't have the one-on-one player like Vermilion has," CLC forward Joe Kavanaugh said. "They have probably three guys that can take the ball to the hoop and score and they got the big guy inside. We just work as a team and keep playing."
The Raiders kept playing hard despite losing a 19-12 lead early in the first half. Vermilion took a 33-28 lead off an 11-2 run before the Raiders scored seven straight points off two Kavanaugh baskets and three Matt Moorman points to head into the break with a 35-34 lead.
Kado hit one of his five 3-pointers to pull Vermilion within 48-45, the closest it would be the rest of the game.
CLC went on an 11-0 run in the next six minutes, sparked by two Kavanaugh baskets and an Aaron Whitelaw three, to grab a 59-45 lead. Kavanaugh and Whitelaw led CLC with 17 points each. Kody Braddix added 12 and Moorman 10.
"To get that lead was important because Vermilion can score so quickly," Russell said. "That made us run our offense more and made them play defense more and that's something they're not used to doing."
The closest Vermilion would get to CLC the rest of the game was 67-61 as Whitelaw, Kavanaugh and Braddix hit six free throws down the stretch to close the door on the Ironmen.
For the second game in a row the Raiders' defense stepped up and handcuffed a high-scoring offense. On Thursday, CLC held Mesabi Range 31 points under its season average while Vermilion was held 26 points under its average.
"When (Vermilion) has the athletes they have, who can shoot and score like they can, we're not even supposed to step on the court with them," Russell said. "For us to step up and play the defense we did was huge. The most important thing with defense is effort and pride. These guys have all that."
Vermilion 34 29 - 63
Central Lakes 35 37 - 72
Raiders 72, Vermilion 63
The key: CLC held Vermilion 26 points under its season average and Joe Kavanaugh and Aaron Whitelaw each scored 17 points.
North Division: CLC 9-1, V 4-5
Overall: CLC 16-7, V 12-11
Next: CLC at Northland 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Aaron Whitelaw 17, Kody Braddix 12, Matt Moorman 10, Gunther Zajic 3, Reid Edison 6, Joe Kavanaugh 17, LeNorris Drummond 2, Greg Martodam 5. FG 27-59 (46 percent), FT 13-16 (81 percent). Three-point baskets: 5 (Whitelaw 3, Zajic, Moorman).
Frank Bradley 8, Adam Kado 15, Javorris Jackson 9, Brandon Allen 2, James Brooks 3, Julius Durant 21, Cornell Thomas 3, Emory Williams 2. FG 23-61 (38 percent), FT 6-10 (60 percent). Three-point baskets: 11 (Kado 5, Brooks, Durant 5).
Rebounds: CLC 25 (Kavanaugh 7, Martodam 6), V 34 (Jackson 10). Assists: CLC 17 (Martodam 4, Braddix 3, Moorman 3), V 14 (Kado 5). Turnovers: CLC 9, V 21.
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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