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Men’s College Basketball: Strong 2nd half get Raiders win on opening night

Central Lakes College hosts Leech Lake Wendesday, Nov. 10

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Central Lakes College's Jalen Dearring dunks the ball against Leech Lake Tribal College Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at CLC in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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For the first time in 19 months, the Central Lakes College Raiders took their home court and in front of a packed house and defeated Leech Lake Tribal College 75-45 to open the 2021-22 season Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Leading by nine points at the half, the Raiders went on a 26-6 run to open the second half and coasted from there to the win over the Lakers behind 14 points from Rodney Oliver and 12 from Jalen Dearring.

The Raiders held Leech Lake to just 21% shooting from the floor and clamped down defensively on the Lakers shooters from behind the arc, giving up just six made baskets on 36 attempts.

CLC Men's Basketball vs Leech Lake Tribal College
Head coach Jim Russell, now in his 24th year of coaching the Raiders, admitted to being emotional as he stepped on to the court.

“It was a great feeling,” Russell said. “I have to be honest with you that I was pretty emotional. My guys are a bunch of good guys and we get along really well. The kids are here and they are playing with a purpose and it gives me a good feeling to know that our program is back and I get to do what I love to do which is coach these guys and make life differences.”

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Two things Coach Russell always asks of his team is to bring energy and share the basketball. In the first half CLC brought the energy but their play was inconsistent at times and the Lakers jumped out to a 9-1 lead. The Raiders fought back and a made free throw by Zaa Buffalo tied the game at nine with 13:47 to go.

The continued pressure started to get the Raiders more open looks in the transition game and two 3-pointers by Quamar Gresham gave the Raiders a 27-18 lead but Leech Lake came right back and pulled to within one at 29-28 on a free throw from Arnold Kingbird.

The Raiders answered with an eight-point run, punctuated by a dunk from Oliver to lead 37-28 at the half.

RELATED: Men’s Basketball: After a year off, CLC men’s basketball is ready for 2021-22

Oliver was one of the Raiders who was affected most by last year’s season being canceled and admitted that the team may have been too amped up at the beginning.

“We were a little too excited and needed to get those first-game jitters out of the way,” he said. “We were a little too anxious to score but once we settled in, the offense started going. It has been a long time coming. I was here last season when the season got canceled so to have a season now and play my first game is overwhelming. I am still excited.”

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It was a much more relaxed Raiders team that came out in the second half and a 26-6 run to begin the half put the game out of reach midway through the second half. The Raiders forced turnovers and got easy buckets while sharing the ball which made put a smile on Coach Russell’s face. Twelve different Raiders scored and as a team collected 15 assists.

David Felix was a force on the boards with 11 rebounds and was followed closely by Isaiah Williams with nine. One thing that hurt the team a bit was just a 50% shooting from the free throw line where the team finished 11-of-19.

“It was a case of first game nerves and these guys are all first year players so they weren’t sure what to expect,” Coach Russell said. “I am glad we got a chance to play and I saw a lot of good things. The number one thing I talked about was to give me your effort and share the ball and I think we did a good job.”

Leech Lake Tribal 28 17 -- 45
Central Lakes 37 38 -- 75

LEECH LAKE TRIBAL
Arnold Kingbird 14, Jarell Jacobs 20, Quinten White 3, Jamie Cook 5, David Cleveland 2, Miguel Reye 1. FG 13-62 (21 percent), FT 13-21 (62 percent). 3-point 6-36 (17 percent).

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CENTRAL LAKES
Carrson Jones 3, Jalen Dearring 12, Josh Lewis 2, Adrian Mongaka 6, Quamar Gresham 8, CJ Davenport 6, Traveon Jones 2, Isaiah Williams 4, Zaa Buffalo 7, Derek Aeilts 4, Rodney Oilver 14, David Felix 7. FG 29-69 (42 percent), FT 13-22 (50 percent). 3-point 6-22 (27 percent). Overall: 1-0. Next: hosts Dakota County 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13.
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