No slam-dunk, but CLC wins
Prior to tip-off of Saturday's battle of the unbeatens, fans and players honored the memory of Central Lakes College quarterback Dominique Corder with a moment of silence.
It was the only reprieve from an otherwise deafening crowd as the NJCAA's fourth-ranked Raiders overcame a 13-point deficit to defeat the No. 2 Rochester Yellowjackets 87-77 during MCAC play.
Marcus Ayala led the Raiders with 25 points and six steals, including an old-fashioned 3-point play that put CLC's 32-9 run during the final 8:55 into full pitch.
Ayala picked the pocket of Rochester's Al Tillman, spun away from the defender and headed up court for a layup and the foul.
"Most of our bench was pumping us up all the way," Ayala said. "I was just picking away at the lead and I got the steal and I knew our team was going to be pumped up behind us."
Ayala and the Raiders forced 29 Yellowjackets turnovers, including seven before the Rochester's first field goal with 4:02 gone by in the first half.
The Raiders staunch defense and big runs, like a 13-4 run capped by an Anthony Kelly dunk, gave the Raiders an early 28-15 lead and a chance to put the game away early.
Things turned sour for the Raiders when the more physical Yellowjackets forced four turnovers that resulted in a 20-12 Yellowjackets run.
"When the game gets that way, your fundamentals in the game of basketball has to come out," Raiders coach Jim Russell said. "Most people when they get frustrated they want to do something else than what they're supposed to do."
Rochester went on a 23-5 run for a 68-55 lead - its largest of the night - to set the stage for the Raiders' second comeback win in as many games.
"We've been in this kind of situation before and we know that we've pulled out wins. As we were down tonight, Fergus Falls was up 13 (on Wednesday). We we're just saying this is another Fergus Falls game. Do the same thing. Pressure them with defense, keep ourselves calm, run our plays and that's what we did."
Kendall Brown and Nash Faulk each added 15 points and Maurice Hernandez 13 for the Raiders, who improved to 17-0 while handing the Yellowjackets their first loss of the season.
Kwamanie Johnson's defensive pressure on point guard Al Tillman derailed the Rochester's offense in the final three minutes, allowing the Raiders to inflate the lead back to 10 before the end of regulation.
"It was hard for (Tillman) to see the floor because (Johnson) was all over him and he had to make a decision quicker," Russell said of his defensive stopper. "He's been our defensive stopper and he does a lot of little things for us. It's great to see a player that understands their role and accepts their role."
Rochester 37 40 - 77
Central Lakes 40 47 - 87
David Fritsch 27, Al Tillman 9, Deuantae Broadnax 18, Joe Beck 8, Chaz Sharp 11, Torren Dowdy 4. FG 28-62 (45.2 percent), FT 17-22 (77.3 percent).
Marcus Ayala 25, Nash Faulk 15, Kendall Brown 15, Maurice Hernandez 13, Anthony Kelly 9, Justin Doyle 5, Kwamanie Johnson 3, Nick Grewe 2. FG 27-73 (37 percent), FT 25-34 (73.5 percent).