With a double-overtime victory at LeSueur-Henderson and a two-point win at Jordan last week, the Central boys’ basketball team has climbed into a tie for third place in the Minnesota River Conference.
The Raiders defeated the Giants 73-71 on Tuesday, Feb. 5, then took down the Hubmen 57-55 on Friday, Feb. 8 to catch up with Belle Plaine in the conference standings at 6-4.
After a short mid-season slump, the team has now won six of its last seven games and, at 15-6 overall, has regained momentum, though head coach Nat Boyer said he would prefer to see more comfortable wins.
“Personally, I would rather see two big margins of victory at this point in the season rather than two nail-biters, but these games proved to us that we need to recover from runs and put our own runs together in order to be a successful team,” he said. “Every game from here on out is going to be tough and we just have to keep preparing for them one game at a time.”
Central 73, LSH 71
In their first meeting of the season the Raiders had easily cut the Giants down to size in a 20-point victory, but a combination of sluggish play on Central’s part and an inspired effort from LeSueur-Henderson made the rematch interesting.
The Raiders took a 38-35 lead in the first half, but the Giants caught up with a 29-26 advantage in the second half to tie the score 64-64 at the end of regulation. Hoping to capture just their second MRC victory, the Giants took their time on offense during the first overtime after controlling the tip-off.
“We played defense for almost two minutes and 30 seconds before they took a shot and missed,” said Boyer.
After gaining ball control the Raiders were unable to score in the time remaining, so the first overtime ended with no points added and the score still knotted at 64. Things loosened up in the second overtime session, however, and the Raiders won that period 9-7 to earn the win.
“We were very fortunate to gut that one out. Thankfully, we ended up victorious,” said Boyer. “I think it was an eye-opener for everyone that anyone can get beat on any given night. Honestly, LSH was a much improved team and they played without a doubt the best game of their season. Coach Marcussen and his coaching staff had them ready to play and they showed that they are improving as a program. We did not play well — defensively we were lethargic and did not play the way we should have. Fortunately for us we were able to get the win in the end.”
Luke Marschall was the high scorer for Central, and he added seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
Tom Messner had 14 points and a team-leading eight rebounds, and Trevor Groschen added 14 points and six rebounds.
Central 57, Jordan 55
Even before the bus returned to NYA from LeSueur-Henderson, Central coaches and players were already strategizing for a rematch with Jordan. Earlier in the season Jordan pulled out a 60-56 win over the Raiders, but after film sessions and two days of practice to put together a game plan, the Raiders aimed to reverse the outcome.
Despite that preparation, Jordan jumped out to an early 14-point lead at game time. The Raiders didn’t panic, but responded with a streak of their own to take the lead at halftime, 31-28.
After extending their lead through the second half, the Hubmen began to rally and closed the gap to two points before running out of time.
“Jordan did have a good look at the end in which they could have tied the game, but defensively the team stepped up and made the stop,” said Boyer. “In the end, we were patient and under control and able to finish the game off with a win.”
The Raiders shot just over 51 percent from the field in the game, and had a 31-24 edge in total rebounds.
Messner scored 19 to lead the offense, and Groschen added 12 points with a team-leading 10 rebounds. Kyle Brazil scored nine points, and Andrew Cardinal had seven points with six rebounds.
Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]