When comparing the Central Lakes College women's basketball team and Ridgewater (Willmar), one word is very appropriate -- similar.
The two teams like to apply full-court pressure, run the same offense, have two posts who average double-figure points, have guards who can shoot the ball effectively, and have almost identical records -- CLC is 14-8 and Ridgewater is 14-9.
After Ridgewater got the best of the Raiders way back on Nov. 30 53-51, the two teams will be looking in the mirror once again at 3 p.m. Friday at Anoka-Ramsey College in the first round of the Minnesota Community College Conference state tournament.
"They're quick and they have a really good post player (Mandi Illies)," said sophomore guard Jolene Otteson, who leads the Raiders in assists this season. "We know they're going to run against us. They also run the same offense as us."
Illies leads the Warriors by averaging 18 points and nine rebounds a game. The 5-11 sophomore post from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa was a Miss Basketball finalist in 1998 and was all-state and all-division for the Warriors last season. Ridgewater also features 5-10 post Gina Dethleff, who averages 11 points a game, and guard Katie Dale, who dishes out four assists a contest.
Sarah Nagel, a 6-foot post, is leading the Raiders in scoring at 17 points a game and 6-0 post Amy Martinson leads in rebounding at 9.3 a game.
"Ridgewater runs the same exact offense as us and they press just like we do," said CLC coach Dennis Eastman, whose team was third in the state tournament last year. "It's going to be one of those things that whichever team defenses the other better will win. This will be one of the closest games all day.
"We can play this game and we should come out on top but we certainly haven't been making things easy."
What Eastman is referring to is the fact his team has dropped three out of its last four games. The Raiders (10-2 division, 14-8 overall) fell to Fergus Falls twice and North Dakota State College of Science once.
"We have to keep our head up," Otteson said. "We have forgotten about Fergus and (Eastman) told us this is a whole new season. That's a real big thing. We can't keep going on about that and we have to be ready to play because we know we can beat them."
Eastman said because of the importance of the Ridgewater game and the whole tournament additional pressure will be put on the top performers of the regular season.
"What I do come tournament time is I shrink our rotation just because we're playing the best of the best," Eastman said. "We're out to win this thing. I don't care how we do it, we just have to get it done."
The Raiders have had a roller-coaster season thus far. They lost their first five games of the season but then ran off 13 straight victories.
"I knew they would improve and going 10-2 in that conference is such a big turnaround," said Ogdahl, whose team claimed the consolation championship in last year's state tournament. "It's always a challenge to go up against them but we were happy to face them because we match up better with them than we do against Fergus."
The opening round game against Ridgewater takes on additional importance for the Raiders because they need to be the third highest Division III finisher at state to make it to the Region 13 tourney on March 2 and 3. The top two Division III finishers in each division -- Fergus Falls and Anoka-Ramsey -- and Bethany Lutheran, which is a Division II school, have already advanced to their respective region tournaments.
"We need to get back to where we were," Eastman said. "That Wahpeton (NDSCS) game kind of took the wind out of our sails. I told them this is a whole new season and whatever has happened has already happened."
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