With a pair of games scheduled against Minnesota River Conference foes that had bested them in close contests earlier this season, the Central boys’ basketball team had retribution in mind last week.
That goal was only partially achieved, as the Raiders fell 66-61 at Belle Plaine on Tuesday, Feb. 19 but picked up a 64-59 home win over Sibley East on Friday, Feb. 22.
The split preserved a winning record in conference play for the Raiders, who are tied with Belle Plaine for fourth place at 7-6 in the MRC. Only one conference game against Watertown-Mayer remains on the schedule, and the Raiders are 17-8 overall.
Raiders head coach Nat Boyer said the team needs to even out its play as the regular season shifts over to more meaningful games in March.
“We have been playing up and down as of late. Our consistency seems to be wavering and that is something that needs to pick up right now as we enter the postseason,” he said. “We are 4-2 over our past six games and 7-3 over our past 10, but when the postseason starts all those numbers get thrown out the window.”
Section seeding was expected to take place Wednesday night to set up the postseason bracket.
Central 61, BP 66
A promising beginning turned into one of the more painful defeats of the season, after the Raiders squandered a 29-19 halftime lead and gave up 47 second-half points on the way to the loss.
“Excellent defensive game played by us in the first half of the game,” said Raiders head coach Nat Boyer. “We controlled the glass, limited their second chance baskets and were very aggressive on offense. Second half, we gave them too much of an opening and they blasted right through it. We did not control the boards, gave up too many second chance baskets and were very tentative on offense.”
The Raiders shot 46.2 percent for the game, but ended up on the short side of a 36-24 rebound tally.
Boyer said the sting of the game might extend past the close of the regular season due to the game’s implications for the conference and section standings.
“Very disappointing loss. A victory would have helped us tremendously in the conference and the sub-section,” he said. “This is definitely a game that will stick in our minds throughout the rest of the season and beyond.”
Tom Messner was Central’s top scorer with 22 points. Trevor Groschen had 10 points with three rebounds, and Noah Peterson and Luke Marschall each scored nine points. Marschall grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
Central 64, SE 59
Later in the week the Raiders picked up a big win over Sibley East to keep the Wolverines looking up at them in the standings. The win gave the Raiders a share of third place and dropped Sibley East into fifth place in the conference.
The Raiders led 35-29 at halftime but fell behind late in the game before rallying for the win.
“We played extremely aggressive against a much bigger team (height wise). We had fantastic defensive effort from our players in the first half after trailing early on and showed that we can come back and finish after being down late in the second half,” said Boyer.
The Raiders connected on 46.2 percent of their shots from the field, and went 10-20 from three-point range.
Messner again topped the scoring chart, netting 26 points with three assists in the game. Groschen scored nine points with nine rebounds, and Andrew Cardinal, Peterson, Marschall and Reid Wenisch all scored seven points in the game.
Marschall grabbed a dozen rebounds and Cardinal added five. As a team, the Raiders pulled down 38 rebounds to the Wolverines’ 39.
“It was a very nice win to pick up after letting one get away down there,” said Boyer. “We played two very good games with Sibley East. Mike [Feterl] does a nice job with his players and we would not be surprised to see them make plenty of noise in the post-season.”
Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]