Men's College Basketball: Raiders take care of home court to start division play
The Central Lakes College Raiders completed their first week of Northern Division play with a 2-0 record after wins over Fond du Lac on Wednesday and a 76-62 victory over Itasca on Saturday.
The Raiders clamped down defensively in the second half to widen a lead of just four points at halftime against an Itasca team that had won just one game all season.
John Jedneak led the Raiders with 17 points, and Alex Koch finished with 14. Danon Briggs also made it into double figures with 11 points for CLC.
“The key is to make the adjustments during the game and I think our kids did that,” said CLC coach Jim Russell. “Itasca just wanted to go and we needed to respond and play back and make them shoot the three. Our kids understand what we wanted to do and I think we proved that with the Vikings’ shooting percentage.”
CLC’s defense allowed just 2-11 shooting from three-point range for the Vikings, and the Raiders forced 21 turnovers. CLC also won the battle in points off turnovers by a margin of 19-9.
Vikings head coach Andrew Schmitz wanted his team taking the ball to the rim and the Vikings were effective on that in the first half, building a lead of 23-17 at the 8:02 mark of the first half. They also succeeded in getting CLC front-court players Jedneak and Bryan Gichaba in foul trouble.
“Usually we face teams that tend to shoot more threes instead of driving inside,” said Gichaba. “John (Jedneak), Herbert (Tarpeh), and myself did get into foul trouble but we worked on keeping our hands up and playing solid defense and we would do well in the end.”
After falling behind, the Raiders’ pressure defense and patience on offense started to wear down the Vikings as they built a 32-28 lead at the half.
“My biggest challenge for the guys at halftime was that the guards needed to rebound as well,” said Russell. “Alex (Koch), and Isaac (Sawyer) finished with nine rebounds together and we had to rely on our big guys. We wanted to make it tough for them to shoot the close shots and we did that in the second half.”
The Raiders responded to Itasca’s pressure with some defensive pressure of their own and the Vikings continued to struggle offensively. CLC was able to up its lead to eight at the 11:04 mark. The Vikings cut it back to six late in the half but CLC responded with an 18-10 run to finish the game and frustrated Itasca into some foolish fouls at the end of the game.
With the win and a 2-0 division record, the Raiders now head out on the road for games at Vermilion, which won the division last season, and at Virginia against Mesabi.
“We started out the year slow and struggled to get to .500,” Gichaba said. “Now that division play is here we are taking it one game at a time. We are working on execution on offense and defense in every practice and our sophomores are taking control and leading the team.”
“The guys are coming together and we are starting to figure out our roles,” said coach Russell. “I told them that we need to expect each game to be close, so we need to play with urgency with every possession.
“It is a learning process, but you always feel good when you win and we need to take care of our home court in our division and we will be OK.”
Itasca 28 34 — 62
Central Lakes 32 44 — 76
Jamar Boone 13, James Caldwell 10, Taylor Woodwick 20, Wuanell Beard 11, Quenton Housley 4, Antonio Story 4, Jared Hutar 8, Jarod Wyatt 10. FG 24-53 (44 percent), FT 12-22 (55 percent). 3-point 2-11 (18 percent).
Benji Subah 3, Marcus Brown 4, Melvin Martin 2, Nathan Holm 6, Isaac Sawyer 7, Bryan Gichaba 9, John Jedneak 17, Herbert Tarpeh 3, Alex Koch 14, Danon Briggs 11. FG 22-51 (43 percent), FT 27-33 (82 percent). 3-point 5-17 (29 percent). Division: 2-0. Overall: 8-7. Next: vs. Vermilion at Ely 8 p.m. Wednesday.