The best just got a little better.
After setting the school record for wins in a season against Itasca the night before, the Central Lakes College Raiders men's basketball team set the bar a little higher with a 91-66 victory over the Fergus Falls Spartans Thursday night.
"This is the best team CLC has ever had and they've done it with a lot of character," said Raiders coach Jim Russell. "This is the same team that got beat on by everybody last year. It's amazing because of the commitment they've put into the program and to themselves.
"As a coach, that's the biggest reward you can ever have. I'm very proud of them."
Fergus Falls, usually one of the Raiders' toughest opponents, was nothing more than a speed bump as CLC shot a scintillating 51 percent from the field and finished the regular season 19-5.
The Raiders were led for the third game in a row by wing Jay Mrozek as he scored 25 points and corralled nine rebounds. He was one rebound shy of his third double-double in a row.
"Jay has been playing so well lately," Russell said. "He's very athletic and very quick. It's nice having that kind of threat inside."
It was all CLC right from the tip as the Raiders turned a close start into a blowout by halftime.
Wing Garth McFadden, who finished with 20 points, had a hot hand from behind the 3-point arc, knocking down three of them, and along with Mrozek, scored 11 points in the half.
Wing Brandon Flanders was another Raider that scored in double figures in the half with 10. Flanders chalked up a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"We've got people out sick and we just needed someone to step up," Mrozek said. "The plan was to go inside and the guards were able to get me the ball."
In the second half, the Spartans got a big dose of the Raiders as CLC opened up a 72-50 lead on a Reid Kuschel jumper and a Mrozek tip-in. The Raiders sailed on cruise control for the rest of the half as they manhandled Fergus Falls, beating the Spartans for the second time in less than a week.
Russell pointed to the Raiders' defense as one of the keys to the victory. CLC limited the Spartans to almost 20 points under their season average.
"For us to hold them to 66 points is incredible," Russell said. "We went out and had fun and did what we've been doing all season."
With only a couple of minutes left in the game, Russell quickly subbed in his starters, allowing the crowd to recognize them for their hard work and success this season. Fittingly, the large crowd gave them a standing ovation.
"That's the way you want to go out," Mrozek said. "We'll miss this place. The two years have gone by quick."
FERGUS FALLS (66)
Sidney Bonner 10, Ian McVey 16, Justin Retzlaff 6, Adam Sullivan 6, Greg Ormberg 2, Justin Arneson 13, Shawn Sorenson 3, Vincent Bates 2, Mark Longfors 8. Team totals: FG 26-71 (36 percent), FT 9-14 (64 percent). Conference -- 8-6. Overall -- 13-11.
CENTRAL LAKES (91)
Jay Mrozek 25, Garth McFadden 20, Joel Clough 7, Travis Janich 4, Brandon Flanders 12, Reid Kuschel 10, Damien Perry 3, Daryl Burch 3, Adam Walker 2, Justin Heitkamp 3, Jon Norquist 2. Team totals: FG 40-79 (50.6 percent), FT 3-9 (33 percent). Conference -- 11-3. Overall -- 19-5. Next game: State tournament March 1-3 at Minneapolis TBA.
3-point baskets -- CLC 8 (McFadden 4), FF 6. Rebounds -- CLC 40 (Mrozek 9, Flanders 10). Turnovers -- CLC 15. Total fouls -- CLC 17, FF 10. Assists -- CLC 33 (Clough 8). Steals -- CLC 14. Blocks -- CLC 5. Halftime -- CLC 47, FF 33.
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