Obviously, the Central Lakes College Raiders women's basketball team has little in common with a pro team such as the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It's difficult to compare Sarah Nagel with Kevin Garnett. Or Mickie Weisman with Terrell Brandon.
But, looking at their seasons, the teams have been eerily similar.
First, let's take the beginning of their campaigns. The Raiders lost their first five games of the season, while the Wolves lost eight straight at the beginning of December and were just 7-13 at one point. CLC has six freshmen out of its 10-player roster and the Wolves had to blend in newcomers Rasho Nesterovic, Wally Szczerbiak, and William Avery.
After the teams struggled at the start, they both went crazy with winning streaks. The Raiders notched 13 in a row and Minnesota won 20 of 25. The Raiders have been a better-oiled machine than a Jaguar, while the Wolves had players like Malik Sealy and Bobby Jackson jell with their stars to shift them into cruise control.
During the streaks, both teams won in the final seconds. Jolene Otteson converted a layup to beat Rainy River by two points on Jan. 8, while Sealy recorded a tip-in to beat the Magic and threw in a wild bank shot to nip the Pacers.
Losing skids have defined the latest portion of the season for both squads. Toward the end of the season the Raiders have lost two of their last three games, both by a considerable margin. And just before the all-star break, the Wolves dropped decisive games to the Lakers and Suns.
Both teams have dominant players, perhaps the best in their respective leagues. Nagel is averaging more than 16 points a game and has been dominating opponents the second half of the season, while Garnett is arguably the best talent in the NBA.
Both teams have had point guard injuries in recent weeks. Weisman broke her nose against Rainy River after running into a teammate and Brandon was out close to a month with a sprained ankle.
Both teams have also reached a crucial part of their season and both are poised to do something special.
The Timberwolves, who lost to the Nuggets 107-104 in overtime Tuesday, were 27-20 at the break and only four games out of first place in the Midwest Division. But if they don't win the division, the Wolves will probably make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and have to face either the Lakers or Trailblazers in the first round.
But first place is certainly not out of reach. The Wolves are trying to catch the Spurs and Jazz, who are struggling and old, respectively. The Spurs are beatable because they have no shooting guard and a severe lack of depth in the pivot. The Jazz are, well, just old. If Minnesota does win the division, it will automatically claim the No. 2 seed in the West.
Similarly, the Raiders are seven games above .500 (14-7 overall) and are tied for first in the Northern Division with Fergus Falls at 10-1. The teams square off at 6 p.m. today at the CLC gym with the division title on the line. If the Raiders win they will win the division for the fifth time in six years and host the Region 13 tournament March 2-3, when they will be battling for a national tournament berth. If CLC loses tonight, the road to New York will be much bumpier.
For the Timberwolves, the plot has just started to get interesting. But for the Raiders, they've hit the final twist in their novel and tonight will be a major turning point.
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