Central Lakes made history Sunday with its MCCC state championship. Friday night, the Raiders will look to make history again as they begin play in the Region 13 tournament.
Last season, Central Lakes finished runner-up at state. That loss was avenged this season against Vermilion in the state championship game as the Raiders held on for a 66-59 victory.
To get there, Central Lakes defeated Fergus Falls 71-58 and Minneapolis 54-39. For the weekend as a whole, the Raiders gave up just 52 points per game.
Head coach Jim Russell said his team's defense won the state tournament and will need to again rise to the occasion if Central Lakes is to first advance past Madison Area Technical College Friday and through the championship game Saturday to gain a berth in the NJCAA Division III tournament in New York.
"That was probably the most impressive thing this past weekend, holding those teams down. We played defense our way," he said. "This week we're working on the basic fundamentals of defense; rotation, covering ground, closing lanes and things like that."
Russell said the state tournament win was nice but his team quickly refocused for a tough upcoming weekend.
"I told them 'It's done, it's over. You got to move on'," he said. "(MATC) is a very good ball club. You don't win 25 games by accident. We're excited to play them. They have to travel here, we want to use that advantage. We'll do what we do and hopefully make some adjustments to take some things away from them. I'm expecting a close game, a big battle."
Region 13B semifinals
Site: Central Lakes College, Brainerd
Schedule: Minneapolis vs. Vermilion, 6 p.m. Friday; Central Lakes vs. Madison (Wis.) Area Technical College, 8 p.m.
Overall: CL 19-8, MATC 25-6, M 22-7, V 20-9
Next: Winner of tournament advances to NJCAA Division III national tournament at Delhi, New York, March 13-15
MATC features some of the nation's best scorers including Chris Davis, averaging 21.9 ppg, Justin Annen 19.8 ppg and Jason King 16.5 ppg.
Joining MATC in the tournament will be Minneapolis Community and Technical College, ranked No. 5 in the NJCAA Division III poll and Vermilion.
Kody Braddix, who was the MCCC state tournament's most valuable player, said the team will need to come into Friday night's game with the same attitude it had last weekend.
"We're matched up with another high-scoring team. It's all about attitude. We weren't intimidated at all this past weekend and I think that factored big in our championship," he said. "If we come out here and play hungry again we should be all right, especially on our home court."
TY RUSHMEYER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5865.
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