They didn't see it coming. There were no flashing lights or ringing bells to tell them to get out of the way.
Without warning, the Central Lakes College Raiders men's basketball team was hit by a 100-mph locomotive as the Fergus Falls Spartans, the nation's ninth-ranked Division III team, chugged to an 89-57 victory Saturday.
The engineer of the Spartan Express was sharp-shooting guard Aaron Austin, who led all scorers with 28 points and nailed six three-pointers.
But the loss wasn't due to a lack of effort on the Raiders' part. CLC went to its bread and butter offense as it fed the ball inside to forward Tony Monson on lob passes.
Usually, the lanky Monson would slither his way for basket after basket underneath. Not on this day.
The Spartans countered Monson's athleticism with physical play, forcing him to shoot unbalanced shots en route to 4-of-12 shooting from the floor.
Raiders guard Daryl Burch, one of the North Division's premier three-point shooters and third on the team in scoring, usually is the player responsible for loosening the defense in the post. Not on this day.
Burch was 0-for-4 from behind the three-point arc and finished with no points.
That forced Raiders coach Jim Russell to go to his bench in order to find something to quell the Spartans' onslaught.
"I was trying to find anything that would work," said Russell. "I went through the whole bench in the first half. You just hope the stuff you do will come around.
"We liked the shots we got. We were getting inside shots and open looks on the outside but they didn't go. I'm happy with the shots we got. You always hope to shoot better at home."
At home is where the Raiders have thrived. Heading into Saturday's game, CLC was 10-0 on its home court and had usually shot well.
Only two Raiders scored in double figures. Justin Heitkamp and Deejay Mayfield both scored 10 points as CLC shot just 38 percent from the field.
Leading 39-29, Austin scored the last five points of the first half, which included a three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Spartan Express took little time in burying the Raiders as it opened the second half with a 17-4 run to capture a 61-33 lead that CLC would not recover from. Austin scored 11 points in the run.
Russell knows a lopsided loss can be detrimental to a team's psyche. How the Raiders come out of this loss may determine the rest of the season.
"They're the best team we've ever played," Russell said of Fergus Falls. They're strong and physical. They're just a solid ballclub. Everything went their way.
"A game like this can go two ways. It can refocus us and make us better, or it could just let out all the air in us. I just hope it makes us better."
Fergus Falls 44 45 -- 89
Central Lakes 29 28 -- 57
FERGUS FALLS (89)
Aaron Austin 28, Matt Hanson 4, Donavon Rogness 2, Adam Sullivan 4, Matt Hoie 5, Chad Anderson 5, Nick Hansen 14, Ryan Gillingsrud 14, Archie Weatherspoon IV 6, Zach Isberner 7. Team totals: FG 32-59 (54 percent), FT 17-19 (89 percent).
CENTRAL LAKES (57)
Tony Monson 8, Bobby Burton 7, Mike Pater 3, Justin Heitkamp 10, Deejay Mayfield 10, Ron Jackson 6, Ben Neuhaus 6, Mike Peeters 2, Cody Busse 3, Joey Morgan 2. Team totals: FG 25-66 (38 percent), FT 5-10 (50 percent). Conference -- 8-4. Overall -- 14-8. Next game: Hosts Itasca 8 p.m. Wednesday.
3-point baskets -- CLC 2 (Burton, Busse), FF 8.
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