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CLC president praises Raiders basketball team after momentous upset

Raiders Coach Jim Russel (center, blue shirt) speaks with his players during a huddle amid an exciting contest with the Suffolk County Community College Sharks -- the No. 1-seeded team in the National Junior College Athletics Association. Central Lakes College would go on to win, Thursday, 82-68. Submitted photo

Through seemingly insurmountable odds, the Central Lakes College Raiders found themselves victorious Thursday, March 14, with an unlikely win over the Suffolk County Community College Sharks of New York.

It was a back and forth 82-68 victory over the No. 1-seeded team in the tournament, advancing CLC one step closer to the National Junior College Athletic Association basketball championship. The eighth-seeded Raiders trailed 35-31 at halftime, to say little of a 14-3 flurry in the game's final coda to seal the deal.

Maybe it's a textbook case of David vs. Goliath for the team, but for CLC President Hara Charlier, Thursday's victory represented coming to a kind of promised land—one, she said, where a community of people come together to experience the highs and lows of sport together.

"The place that I came from didn't have a whole lot of athletics. For the last three years, we've been just watching and enjoying greater athletics," Charlier said during a phone interview Friday. Charlier came to CLC from Virginia and originally hails from upstate New York. "It's amazing how exciting it is when you know the players and you know how hard they've worked. It was so close the entire time. It was a heck of a finish. ...

"The whole student body is behind this team. We are proud of the team. They have worked extremely hard," Charlier said of the squad led by guard Chris Buckley's dominant 25-point performance. "They've gotten better as the season has progressed. They've come together beautifully as a team. We were thrilled last night that they knew what they had to do and executed it."

The Raiders' semifinals matchup Friday vs. No. 5-seeded Rock Valley Golden Eagles of Rockford, Ill.

Gabriel Lagarde

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