MEN'S BASKETBALL: Russell reflects on national tournament season
The Central Lakes College Raiders came together as a team for the last time March 15-17 in New York for the NJCAA Division III national tournament and returned with fourth-place honors.
CLC, which finished 29-4 and won the Southern Division championship, started the season with an 18-game win streak. The Raiders lost just three regular-season games, and had only one defeat in postseason play.
“We broke a school record for more wins than any other season,” Raiders coach Jim Russell said. “Winning state and regional was a really great feeling. These guys accomplished a lot, things they’ll never forget.”
Although Russell notched the title of Southern Division Coach of the Year, he gives much of the credit for the winning season to his players.
“It’s the same old story of having the right athletes and we had the right squad,” said Russell. “They’re definitely a team, they played as a team, and people noticed.”
A big part of the Raiders’ success was provided by captains Maurice Hernandez, Kwamaine Johnson, Ronnie Kornbaum, and Kevin Kuefler.
Hernandez averaged 18 points and scored 537 points in his two years at CLC. Johnson averaged 13 points and scored a total of 390. Kornbaum averaged 11 points and scored 325.
“I can’t speak enough for my leaders — Hernandez, Johnson and Kornbaum on the court and Kuefler (who tore his ACL early in the season — behind the scenes,” Russell said. “As a coach, I couldn’t ask for more. Anything I asked them to do, they did.”
Freshman Brandon Davis had a breakout season, scoring 279 points. Michael Farrington, with 285 points, added the extra scoring punch the Raiders needed to make it to nationals.
“We were really surprised and pleased with Davis and Farrington,” said Russell. “They were big at the (national) tournament. They covered the court and made important shots and steals.”
While the season just ended, CLC coaches are already preparing for next year and hopefully another shot at nationals.
“We had a great team this year, I couldn’t have asked for a better team, but I’ve got my bags packed and I’m going recruiting,” Russell said. “We’re always looking to expand and add new talent.”