Men’s College Basketball: Raiders hold off Mesabi for share of division title
The Central Lakes College Raiders hosted Mesabi Norseman Saturday, Feb. 19.
BRAINERD — It’s been a season of ebbs and flows for the Central Lakes College Raiders and their North Division clinching victory Saturday, Feb. 18, over the Mesabi Norsemen was a microcosm of that.
The Raiders jumped out to a seven-point lead and built a 40-27 advantage at halftime. They grew it to 16 points in the second half and led 81-65 with under two minutes left, before needing to survive a Norseman rally for an 88-83 win.
‘Keeping out composure was No. 1,” said Raiders head coach Jim Russell. “No. 2, I told them that they weren’t freshmen anymore. It is the end of the year and we get a treat to go play in the playoffs. We had some business to take care of today and I told them our goal was to cut the nets as conference champs.”
CLC guard Anthony Burch was held to less than 10 points in the first matchup with the Norseman — a 75-57 loss Jan. 21. This time the floor general scored a team-high 22 points with five assists.
“All this week I have been watching that film and I made sure I knew everything about them before I came into this game to get them back for what they did last time,” Burch said.
Said Russell: “AJ is smart, which is what you want out of your point guard, but he also has an edge to him. He has been the glue to our team all year long and he came up today and did well. I hope he gets all-conference and he should be the Northern Division Player of the Year.”
The Raiders’ roster was thin Saturday with the absence of TJ Kornbaum and David Felix in the paint and starting guard Langston Binns. Denzil Walker responded with 20 points. Carrson Jones added 12 points and Joshua Polk came off the bench with 11 points.
“From Day One coach Russell has told us to give 100% and play defense to the best of our ability and to be a good teammate,” said Walker. “Mesabi was a really strong defensive team so we needed to be strong with the ball while playing good perimeter defense.”
Mesabi forced 18 Raiders turnovers while CLC forced 17 Mesabi turnovers.
Two Joshua Polk 3-pointers handed CLC a 13-point halftime lead but a strong start to the second half was key. CLC saw leads evaporate in the second half and turn into home losses to Rainy River and Riverland.
A two-point basket from Burch with 1:50 to play gave CLC its 81-65 lead. Mesabi closed to 84-77 with 0:57 to play. CLC responded with free throws from Burch to increase the lead to 86-77.
“Focus was the main thing and having everybody be on the same page and play as a team,” Burch said. “This is what we worked for all year so it was easy to play tonight.
“It feels good. This is a big stepping stone for us and something that we can move forward on and it gives us confidence going into the state tournament.”
A trip to the state tournament was a long way away after a 2-5 start to the season.
“I am looking forward to the state tournament because I feel that this alone gives us a lot of confidence, but also brings us together,” said Russell, who earned his 499th win.
Mesabi Range 27 56 -- 83
Central Lakes 40 49 -- 89
Glentrel Carter 10, Mark Campbell II 26, Nataj Sanders 22, Johnny Spencer 4, Zion Sanford 6, Ziaire Davis 6, Vance Alexander 8, Anthony Rayson 1. FG 30-72 (42 percent), FT 15-25 (60 percent). 3-point 8-31 (26 percent).
Carrson Jones 12, Anthony Burch 22, Denzil Walker 20, Joshua Polk 11, Josh Rogers 7, TJ Kornbaum 5, Davion Jackson 4, Broden Fleisher 2, David Felix 6. FG 30-61 (49 percent), FT 18-26 (69 percent). 3-point 11-22 (50 percent). Division: 12-2. Overall: 18-8. Next: hosts Red Lake Nation College 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.