Thanks to a scorching offensive stretch last week, during which the Central boys’ basketball team averaged over 80 points per game in three contests, the Raiders improved to 9-1 overall on the season.
Central won its own holiday tournament with a no-contest 79-29 win over Glenville-Emmons in the first game on Dec. 28 and a close 77-74 scrap against Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (ACGC) on Dec. 29. The Raiders then improved their Minnesota River Conference record to 2-1 with an 89-69 home win over LeSueur-Henderson on Jan. 3.
“The boys are playing well right now. We know that the toughest part of our schedule is now upon us,” said Raiders head coach Nat Boyer. “Things will definitely not get any easier and the key to our success is our preparation and execution. It is important to maintain our level of confidence and intensity. Offensively, we need to keep getting good looks at the basket and defensively, continued teamwork and communication are necessary.”
Central 79, GE 29
In the first game of their holiday tournament, the Raiders completely outclassed the Glenville-Emmons Wolverines. By the end of the first half, the score was already 57-9 in favor of the Raiders, who throttled back as far as possible in the second half to avoid embarrassing their opponent any further.
“Glenville-Emmons was not a very deep team, which really affected them negatively – they ran into some team issues (injury, undefined, etc.) which did not affect their starters, but it did affect their bench,” said Boyer. “Fortunately for us, we were able to jump out early on them and get a lot of players a lot of time on the court.”
A total of 10 Central players recorded at least two points in the game. Tom Messner led the way with 12 points, Kyle Brazil scored 11 points, Andrew Cardinal had 10 points, and Luke Marschall and Reid Wenisch each scored nine points.
Marschall led the team with eight rebounds, and Cardinal grabbed seven rebounds.
Central 77, ACGC 74
The next game of the weekend for Central was much more competitive, as the Raiders battled ACGC for the tournament title.
“ACGC is a very good team, ranked No. 13 in Class A as of Jan. 1,” said Boyer. “We played very well in the first half and then had some defensive lapses in the second half. Fortunately, we were able to get the victory in the end.”
The Raiders held a 37-30 edge at halftime, but the Falcons had a 44-40 advantage in the second half to close the gap.
“We played very well for 24 minutes of the game, it is the eight minutes that really concerns us. We have areas where need to consistently shore up some things, but we are moving in the right direction.”
Central did dominate the boards, pulling down 42 rebounds to ACGC’s 26, and the Raiders also held a slight edge in shooting percentage (42.4 percent to 37.1 percent).
Senior Trevor Groschen had a breakout game with 25 points, 10 rebounds and a block to emerge as the team’s individual leader for the game. Messner scored 15 points with six assists, Cardinal scored 11 points with five assists, Marschall had nine points with five rebounds and Taylor Trick scored seven points with six rebounds.
Boyer said he was pleased with the weekend, and the outcome for the Raiders.
“We played well in the tournament and were able to change a few things up, which gave us a new look and some new combinations. We definitely found more areas where we need to improve, but overall it was nice to have two more home games,” he said.
Central 89, LSH 69
The Raiders started fast and kept their foot on the gas to produce their highest offensive output of the season. Boyer said the team is in a strong offensive groove right now.
“We have been fortunate to be shooting the ball very well and getting to the rim. By getting out and running the floor, we have had much better looks at the basket,” he said.
The Raiders opened a 20-point lead in the first half, which closed with Central holding a 45-25 advantage. That lead expanded to 30 points at times in the second half, and Boyer said the main challenge for the team was to maintain intensity.
“You always get concerned about your team losing focus. Fortunately, when we let things go on defense, our offense continued to flow and we got to the basket,” he said.
A dozen Central players recorded points in the game, with Messner scoring 27 points and dishing out nine assists. Cardinal had 16 points with a team-high 10 rebounds and four assists, and Groschen scored 10 points. Trick added nine points and Reid Wenisch chipped in seven.
As a team, the Raiders shot 62.5 percent from the field, and were 53.8 percent from three-point range. They also held a 34-26 advantage in the rebound category.
Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]