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Men's College Basketball: Raiders come up short against Ridgewater

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Al-Jureau Ray of Central Lakes College heads to the basket Saturday, Jan. 5, against Ridgewater at Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video2 / 4
Chris Buckley of Central Lakes College throws the ball back inbounds Saturday, Jan. 5, against Ridgewater at Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video3 / 4
Chris Buckley of Central Lakes College takes a shot Saturday, Jan. 5, against Ridgewater at Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video4 / 4

The first half of the season came to a disappointing end for the Central Lakes College Raiders with a 75-72 loss to Ridgewater Saturday, Jan. 5 at the CLC Winter Classic at Brainerd.

CLC built an eight-point, first-half lead and was looking to take a six-point lead to the half, but the Warriors' Daivante Ostrander heaved in a three-quarter court prayer as time expired to cut the Raiders' lead to 38-35 at the half.

Ridgewater's Faizon Stephens came off the bench early in the second half to score 11 points and grab eight rebounds to swing the momentum to Ridgewater, which built a 13-point advantage with 4:22 left.

Chris Buckley led the Raiders scoring effort with 23 points to go with four steals. AJ Ray added 17 points. The team shot 41 percent from the floor, but missed key opportunities down the stretch to regain the lead after a comeback cut the Warriors' lead to three with less than a minute remaining.

The Warriors avenged a 90-79 loss to the Raiders back on Dec 8.

"Ridgewater has a good team," Raiders head coach Jim Russell said. "They are big and physical and we just couldn't hit shots. We got the ball inside, but we aren't used to getting pushed. We made stops, but that three before halftime was huge. So I try to teach the guys that every possession matters.

"I hope today was a good learning process. He (Ridgewater coach Nathan Thooft) is trying to build a program and this is a big win for them. They wanted it more than us. I told my guys, 'sorry, but there is always a target on your back' and that's what that was tonight."

The Raiders did get their first division win earlier in the season at Lake Superior College, but the Northern Division begins in earnest Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Northland Community & Technical College.

Russell feels good about his team's leadership and the development of first-year players like Brandon Burggraff.

"I think we do have an emotional leader on this team," coach Russell said. "I think Malik (Kelly) has shown a lot of toughness and AJ (Ray) and Chris (Buckley), you saw how they played, they are my leaders and aren't going to quit. We just need to be more consistent as a group, but we will battle through it."

The biggest battle so far has been at the post position. Tyree'on Johnson started Saturday, with Avis Gilbert and JaQuavias Hayes getting playing time.

"We are still looking to define our post position," Russell said. "That has been tough. We have had people quit, and also not take care of business in class, and we have inconsistency there. As a group with our talent, we can do it, but are we all on the same page? The game is all about chemistry and learning."

Ridgewater 35 40—75

Central Lakes 38 34—72

RIDGEWATER

Jadaunte Sutton 17, Daviante Ostrander 9, Niko Oliver 12, Avery Palma 3, Rodney Lubin 5, Sam Olson 4, Parker Schwinghammer 5, Travis Visser 9, Faizon Stephens 11. FG 27-69 (39 percent), FT 10-17 (59 percent). 3-point 11-32 (34 percent).

CENTRAL LAKES

Chris Buckley 23, Josh Arnold 1, Malik Kelly 9, Gavin Smith 3, JaQuavius Hays 8, Al-Jureau Ray 17, Tyree'on Johnson 4, Brandon Burggraff 7. FG 26-62 (41 percent), FT 8-16 (50 percent). 3-point 12-29 (40 percent). Overall: 8-4. Next: at Northland Community College 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9.

For more photos go to https://bit.ly/2RdwUAL.