Men’s College Basketball: Raiders fall to Rochester in a close game
COON RAPIDS — The No. 1 Northern Division seed Central Lake College Raiders fought through a tough start to lead by a point at the half, but they couldn’t get enough buckets to fall late in the second half.
The No. 2 Southern Division seed Rochester Community and Technical College Yellowjackets converted free throws and Central Lakes College saw their season come to an end with an 83-80 loss in the semifinal round of the Region 13 Tournament Saturday, Feb 29.
Sophomore guard Josh Arnold led the Raiders with 20 points and four rebounds and Kameron Givens continued his strong play scoring 18 points off the bench.
The Raiders shot 44% for the game and also converted 19-of-22 free throws. The Yellowjackets hit 23 free throws and shot 49% from the field.
“You are in the semifinals and nothing is going to be easy,” said Raiders head coach Jim Russell. “They had a great game plan and they are athletic, tough and physical. But we stayed with it and fought hard. We haven’t been in that position much this year. It was good for us and it was a great battle in the second half. When things aren’t dropping you have to dig a little deeper, but both teams played really well.”
Rochester head coach Brian LaPlante had a game plan which put a focus on shutting down the Raiders Tyree’on Johnson and Lionel Warner. That formula worked well as Johnson didn’t score his first basket until the 7:56 mark and finished with four points in the first half. Warner scored nine points with the majority of those coming from outside shots, including a 3-point shot that drew the Raiders to within one point with 1:23 left in the first half. A 2-point shot from Givens on the next possession tied the game at 39 and two free throws from Johnson gave the Raiders a 41-40 lead at the half.
Coach Russell has coach 21 seasons and LaPlante has 24 seasons with Rochester and the strategy they employed showed the strength of their years in the game. LaPlante’s strategy of clogging the inside was very effective in the Yellowjackets building an 18-10 lead, but Russell countered by having his guards drive to the basket and that strategy paid off with the Raiders comeback late in the half.
“A couple of crusty veterans on the benches,” LaPlante said. “Jim does such a great job. I feel terrible for him and his kids. That is a great team and they were really classy. Two nationally ranked teams and it boils down to simple things. It wasn’t anything big.”
In the second half, the Yellowjackets started to get the Raiders into foul trouble and they also hit 3-pointers to build up a lead which got to 64-57 midway through the second half. The Raiders employed a full court trap and they cut the lead to 77-75 on three free throws from Arnold. With 42 second left and the Raiders trailing 79-75, Warner got a good look at a 2-pointer but missed.
Rochester will play No. 1 Southern Division seed St. Cloud State Community and Technical College in the championship game Sunday, Mar. 1.
“We just haven’t been in that situation all year but I told the guys afterwards to be proud,” coach Russell said. “What a year we had and the sophomores taught us a lot and that’s what it is all about. I am proud of this program and where we are going.”
Rochester 40 43 -- 83
Central Lakes 41 39 -- 80
Elijah Flenorl 7, Kong Kong 22, Jerome Cunningham, 17, Ray Adams 13, Devin Melzer 14, Antonio Maddox 2, Karmoga Lero 6, Keonte Williams 2. FG 27-55 (49%), FT 23-30 (77%). 3-point 6-18 (33%).
Zion Sanford 4, Josh Arnold 20, Javere Salter 3, Kameron Givens 18, Beau Bailey 8, Linoel Warner 13, Tyler Baribeau 2, Tyree’on Johnson 12. FG 28-63 (44%), FT 19-22 (86%). 3-point 5-22 (23%). Overall: 24-5.