For the first time this season, the Central boys’ basketball team is experiencing a slump.
The Raiders lost their only game last week 66-64 to Belle Plaine on Thursday, Jan. 17, extending a mini-losing streak to three games and dropping them into sixth place in the Minnesota River Conference with a 2-3 record.
Belle Plaine came into Central tied with the Raiders in the MRC standings at two wins and two losses apiece, but a hard-fought game tipped the Tigers’ way in the final seconds to extend Central’s slide.
After heading into halftime and trailing by just one point, 32-31, the Raiders fell behind by as many as 10 points in the second half.
“We were able to claw our way back. The pressure we applied and our ability to attack the basket put us in a good position,” said Raiders head coach Nat Boyer.
The Raiders had tied the game with less than 20 seconds remaining, but ended up fouling a Belle Plaine player and sending him to the line, where he sank both free throws.
“Off the second free throw, which was made, we had planned to attack the basket, hoping to get a clean shot or get fouled, but we did not get the look we had drawn up and ended up losing by two,” said Boyer. “The game was very close throughout. We put a lot of pressure on their guards and made them play a faster game, which we felt would benefit us. To Belle Plaine’s credit, they adjusted and finished when they needed to.”
Belle Plaine had a phenomenal shooting night, connecting on nearly 60 percent of its shots from the field and going 7-10 from three-point range.
The Raiders shot just under 47 percent as a team, and fell short in the rebound category 23-18.
Despite Central’s 9-1 start to the season, Boyer said the Raiders are not a finished product and have plenty of areas to keep working on as the season progresses.
“The competition has definitely improved,” said Boyer. “We are not playing up to our potential at this point. We are definitely a work in progress. Our performance in the MRC has been anything but stellar so far. We played very well against two of our MRC opponents, other than that we need to play the kind of basketball that we are capable of playing in order to be successful.
“We are still attempting to get to that next level of play where we can be more than just competitive with teams at the top of our conference. We have a number of areas where we need to improve.”
Central’s top scorer against Belle Plaine was Tom Messner, who netted 20 points. Kyle Brazil added 16 points and Trevor Groschen scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Luke Marschall led the team with five rebounds and two blocks.
Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]