A hot start carried over to the second week of play for the Central boys’ basketball team, which improved to 4-0 overall after picking up two more wins in non-conference action last week.
The Raiders went on the road to beat Rockford 49-40 on Tuesday, Dec. 4, then took to their home court for the first time in a 71-64 win over Mound-Westonka on Thursday, Dec. 6.
Central’s 2008-09 team also started 4-0 (and lost its fifth game), but in the years prior to that early season winning streaks were few in the 2000s. Despite that history, Raiders head coach Nat Boyer remained focused on the future — the near future.
“[It’s been a] very good start to the season, something we strived for, not something that we are satisfied with,” he said. “We just simply look at our next opponent and prepare for them.”
Asked whether it was nice to build momentum before meeting any Minnesota River Conference teams (the Raiders open conference play against Tri-City United on Friday, Dec. 14), Boyer was careful not to overlook a preceding match up with Kimball on Dec. 11.
“We have been fortunate to play well prior to our conference schedule. We are looking to carry this momentum into our game with Kimball. We just simply take one game at a time,” he said.
Results aside, Boyer said one of the benefits of Central’s early games has been a chance to play opponents that have challenged the Raiders in different ways.
“We’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to play teams with some varying styles and so we have been able to use various offensive and defensive schemes,” he said.
Central 49, Rockford 40
The Raiders used a strong first half to ride out a win over Rockford despite their lowest offensive output of the year. Central took a 27-18 advantage into halftime, and the teams were evenly matched at 22 points apiece in the second half.
Central shot 41.9 percent from the field, but held the Rockets to just 28.6 percent shooting. An active defense held Rockford to just 10 percent shooting from three-point range (2-20).
The Raiders also held a 33-28 advantage in rebounds, but turned the ball over 17 times compared to 11 for Rockford.
Senior guard Tom Messner led the Raiders in scoring with 15 points. Andrew Cardinal added nine points with four rebounds and three steals, Trevor Groschen scored eight points with a team-leading 10 rebounds, and Reid Wenisch had seven points. Luke Marschall had four points with seven rebounds and three assists.
“I truly think the main thing that has been going well for us has been our level of intensity. The team has taken it out to and left it on the floor every game so far, and for our success that is a key,” said Boyer. “You can always improve. We have a lot of things that need to be looked at and tinkered with each and every day. Our main goal is to improve every day.”
Central 71, M-W 64
Accurate shooting carried the Raiders to a more fluid win over the White Hawks later in the week, as Central connected on nearly 50 percent of its shot attempts and went exactly 50 percent (7-14) from three-point range.
The White Hawks were unable to match that pace with an inordinate amount of long-range shooting, launching 36 three-point attempts but scoring on just 10 of them (27.8 percent) and shooting 30.1 percent overall.
After the Raiders took a comfortable first-half lead, however, the White Hawks answered back and closed the gap to 33-25 by the intermission. Mound-Westonka actually had a 39-38 point edge in the second half, but the Raiders dominated the boards with a 43-26 advantage.
Messner had a big game, scoring 24 points and passing out seven assists. Groschen had 18 points with a team-high 13 rebounds, and Cardinal scored nine points with seven rebounds and 11 assists. Marschall was the team’s second-leading rebounder with 11.
“This team has been led by a team performance each and every night. We have different players that have led us in every category, from points, to rebounds, to assists, to hustle – which you don’t see in the paper,” said Boyer. “The guys know that when their ticket is punched and they are in the game, we need the best they can bring every second they are there.”