Last week the Central Lakes men's basketball team made history in winning its first state basketball championship.
Saturday the Raiders again made history thanks to a 77-53 victory over the Vermilion Ironmen in the Region 13 championship at Central Lakes College.
Kody Braddix, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, led all scorers with 27 points.
The Raiders will now play in the NJCAA Division III tournament March 13-15 in Delhi, New York.
Freshman Will Kornbaum summed up the feeling of the team: "We feel great. We're going to New York. You've got to feel great when you are going to the national tournament. We played defense and we played team ball, which is what got us here."
Raider guard George Washington (3) hugged CLC head basketball coach Jim Russell after the Raiders won the Region 13B 77-53 over Vermilion Community College Saturday at Central Lakes. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Raiders head coach Jim Russell feels his team is playing their best at the right time.
"This time of year it's all about executing and doing what you do best," he said. "There weren't a whole lot of wrinkles. It was believing what we had to do. It just comes down to effort and heart. The guys came out and just executed well."
After splitting a pair of regular season games with Vermilion, the Raiders have captured the last two games against the Ironmen - the state and regional title games.
Like last week's state game, defense was the key. Central Lakes held the Ironmen to 36 percent shooting and scored 21 points off of turnovers.
The Raiders built a 21 point lead in the first half and led by 20 (45-25) at the break. That's because Braddix started to get open looks from the 3-point line. He rattled off eight straight points to give the Raiders an 18-6 lead at the 10:29 mark. He finished with 22 first-half points.
Dustin Monson scored eight points coming off the bench and George Washington sank two threes for six points in the first half.
"I'm so proud of my team," said freshman C.J. Peeters. "We are starting to click at the right time. Our sophomores, freshmen, our bench, and our coaches all stepped up their game and it's all about a team effort."
Raiders 77, Vermilion 53
Overall: CLC 21-8, Ver 22-9
Next: NJCAA Division III national tournament at Delhi, New York, March 13-15
The key to the second half was to not allow Vermilion to go on a run. Central Lakes used its defense and a patient offense to accomplish that.
The Ironmen were only able to get as close as 49-31 at the fifteen minute mark, before the Raiders built their lead back up to 20 with 11 minutes remaining. CLC's run was punctuated by a Braddix pass off the backboard to Peeters, who slammed it home.
Central Lakes shot 17-of-25 at the free throw line in pulling away for win.
"We had some key moments in the year where we had to find out who we were and find out what are identity is," said Russell. "Once we found that, we were clicking at the right time. Like people have said, we are the hottest team right now."
The major concern for the Raiders is the health of both Braddix and Fritz Renelus, who each left with injuries.
The Raiders do have two weeks before the national tournament for those players to heal.
"We played a couple of teams throughout the season that were ranked in the nation," Peeters said. "I don't think you can be scared going in. You need to be confident and do your thing and wish for the best."
Ryan Peeters (left) is hugged by C.J. Peeters (33) after the Central Lakes College Raiders defeated Vermilion Community College 77-53 in the Regional 13B championship game Saturday at CLC. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Vermilion 25 28 - 53
Central Lakes 45 32 - 77
George Washington 11, Kody Braddix 27, Matt Moorman 2, Fritz Renelus 3, Will Kornbaum 3, C.J. Peeters 12, Cody Lezer 2, Dustin Monson 15, Justin Sutton 2. Team totals: FG 27-46(59 percent), FT 17-25(68 percent), 3-point baskets: (Washington 2, Braddix 4).
Nick Schulwitz 2, Adam Kado 6, Steve Birman 4, James Brooks 3, Eric McPherson 14, Jon Baker 5, James Dozier 8, Ashley Thomas 9, Randy Daniel 2. Team totals: FG 22-60(37percent), FT 5-8(62 percent), 3-point baskets: (Baker 1, Thomas 3).
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