The Central boys’ basketball team is off to its best start in at least a decade, notching two more wins last week to improve to 6-0.
In the first game of the week, the Raiders hosted Kimball on Tuesday, Dec. 11 and walked away with a 52-42 win despite a less than satisfactory performance. The Raiders also had their first taste of Minnesota River Conference play on Friday, Dec. 14 and dominated Tri-City United 63-28.
“I am not sure when the last time a boys team at Central started the season 6-0. It is a nice place to be at, but not a place that we are satisfied with,” said Raiders head coach Nat Boyer. “We are just playing one game at a time. Win, lose, or draw, we worry about the current opponent and then when that game is finished we focus on the next team on our schedule.”
Boyer added that the key to success so far this season has been a balanced approach that emphasizes the team rather than any particular individuals.
“This group of young men is playing as a team. They have truly taken the we is greater than me approach. They understand that all things that happen, happen to us or by us, as a team,” he said. “Different players have been stepping up at different times, and this has rang true in every game.”
Central 52, Kimball 42
While not playing up to their standards, the Raiders managed to pick up their fifth non-conference win of the season over the Kimball Cubs.
Central held a narrow 24-22 edge after the first half of play, but managed to widen the lead in the second half with a 28-20 advantage.
“We definitely did not play our best game of the season up to this point. We allowed too many offensive rebounds in the first half and our transition game was not where we wanted it to be,” said Boyer. “We came out and played well the second half. We were very fortunate to have a good idea of what Kimball likes or is more likely to do offensively and defensively, and that helped us prepare.”
The Raiders shot just 38.6 percent from the field, but held the Cubs to a 24.6 percent shooting day. The Raiders held a slight 35-32 advantage in rebounds, but struggled with 20 turnovers to Kimball’s 10.
Tom Messner led the team with 11 points and four assists, while Luke Marschall and Trevor Groschen each scored nine points and Kyle Brazil added eight points.
Groschen was the team’s top rebounder with 12, while Marschall had nine rebounds and three blocks.
“As with any victory we will take it and build upon it. There [were] a lot of adjustments made following this game,” said Boyer.
Central 63, TCU 28
Those adjustments appeared to pay off, as the Raiders put together a complete effort later in the week against the Tri-City United Titans. Central more than doubled the Titans’ point total in both the first and second half, jumping out to a 25-12 lead before the intermission and adding on with a 38-16 second half.
“We played solid basketball for 32 of the 36 minutes. We did turn the ball over too much on account of our own mistakes, but against a big and physical team like Tri-City we were very pleased with our rebounding,” said Boyer. “The team effort by everyone was truly excellent. The energy and intensity that everyone brought to the floor pushed us along all night.”
Central’s shooting was much better than the previous game, as the Raiders connected from the field on 57.1 percent of their shots, including a 7-13 performance from three-point range.
The Raiders also dominated in the rebound category 36-16, despite Tri-City’s height advantage.
Brazil scored 16 points to lead the Raiders in scoring. Groschen scored 13 points, Messner had eight, and Andrew Cardinal and Taylor Trick each netted seven points.
Groschen also had 12 rebounds, and Marschall grabbed eight rebounds.
Boyer said the team is rightfully playing with a great deal of confidence, but must also guard against a letdown in intensity.
“The important thing is to keep a level head and realize that we cannot overlook someone. Everyone steps on the floor with the same idea, and that is to win,” he said. “It is important that we continue to work for the end result. Through preparation and practice, we build for the next game and it is key that we continue to get better every day, every practice, every game, every workout.
“I don’t know of any team that has ever perfected anything. We are nowhere near where we want to be yet. We are fortunate to be where we are right now, the hard work has been paying off, but if we lessen our workload, or overlook a team we will be in trouble. The team has goals and we are working toward those goals every day.”