by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central boys basketball team went 2-0 this past week, defeating a pair of conference opponents at home. They defeated Belle Plaine last Thursday, 64-58, and also beat Tri-City United on Friday, 54-35.
They are now in fifth place in the Minnesota River Conference with a 6-7 record. Mayer Lutheran leads the conference at 11-2.
Central 54, Tri-City United 35
The Raiders trailed 25-23 at halftime but dominated the second half en route to a 54-35 win at home.
Reid Wenisch tallied 14 points for Central and Noah Peterson was also in double figures with 13 points to go with a team-leading eight rebounds.
The Raiders converted eight 3-pointers, compared to two for TCU.
TCU 25 10 35
Central 23 31 54
Tri-City United – TOTALS 14 3-7 35
Central – Casey Clemensen 0 2-3 2, Andrew Cardinal 2 1-4 5, Kellen Erpenbach 0 0-0 0, Noah Peterson 4 3-6 13, Isaac Hormann 1 5-7 7, Zach Schnabel 1 1-2 3, Reid Wenisch 5 0-0 14, Nate Nimitz 0 0-0 0, Alek Bixby 1 0-0 3, Carter Clemensen 1 2-2 5, Brice Panning 1 0-0 2, TOTALS 16 14-23 54
Three Pointers – Tri-City United 2, Central 8 (Wenisch 4, Peterson 2, Bixby, Car Clemensen); Rebounds – TCU 34, Central 27 (Peterson 8, Hormann 7); Assists – TCU 6, Central 10 (Peterson 4, Hormann 4); Steals – Central 12 (Cardinal 3, Peterson 3); Blocks – TCU 3
Central 64, Belle Plaine 58
After battling back from a 16-point halftime deficit, the Raiders withstood another surge and made enough plays down the stretch to defeat Belle Plaine at home.
The Raiders trailed 36-20 at halftime but opened up the half on a 15-2 run for a 38-35 Belle Plaine lead with under 13 minutes left.
Central head coach Nat Boyer said his team was aggressive in the second half.
“The big thing we just wanted to gain some momentum,” he said. “They really jumped out on us early and we knew we had to do something.”
Belle Plaine then expanded the lead back up to 49-41 but Carter Clemensen hit a three-pointer, and after two free throws by Luke Narveson, Noah Peterson scored five straight points to make it 51-49.
After Reid Wenisch took a huge charge, Clemensen then gave the Raiders the lead on a 3-pointer with under 7 minutes left.
“We just got to help out our teammates if they get beat and step in and take a charge like we practiced,” said Wenisch, adding the comeback was a team effort. “We just kept getting stops and kept getting good offensive possessions and swinging the ball because our shooters were hitting,”
Wenisch then got an offensive rebound leading to a putback by Andrew Cardinal and Wenisch then made 2-of-2 from the line for a 56-51 edge with about 4 remaining.
“It’s a huge win,” said Wenisch. “We were down 16 at half and we’re kind of down on ourselves but second half we made a huge run. Carter and Noah stepped up big time and helped us and we started rebounding.”
After Sam Karl hit a 3-pointer for Belle Plaine, Clemensen went on another run scoring five straight points, including a 3-pointer for a 61-54 lead with under 2 minutes left.
The Raiders then made enough of their free throws down the stretch to get the win.
Wenisch said the victory was great to have for his team considering they had previously lost two games by a total of three points.
“It’s a big one,” said Wenisch. “It’s a playoff atmosphere. We might play them first round too so it’s a confidence builder for us.”
“It’s huge,” said Boyer. “It builds confidence and it shows it can be done… you can see the excitement on the bench and you can see the excitement together. It doesn’t matter whether they are on the floor or not, they’re all together and that’s a big part of it.”
Boyer attributed the first half deficit to rebounding as his team was outrebounded 18-5. The 6-4 Narveson is just one of several tall players on the Belle Plaine squad.
For the game the Tigers outrebounded the Raiders 26-17, but Central had 10 3-pointers compared to Belle Plaine’s four. Central also committed just five turnovers.
Carter Clemensen and Peterson each finished with 16 points for Central while Wenisch had 13 points and a team-high six rebounds.
“We always tell them when your ticket is punched, you get called on, do your job,” said Boyer. “Do your job and make your teammates better.”
Wenisch added that with playoffs just ahead his team has to stay focused.
“Just keep improving so we can get ready for the playoffs no matter who we play,” said Wenisch. “Everybody on our team has to step up like we did today.”
BP 36 22 58
Central 20 44 64
Belle Plaine – Ricky Fogarty 8, Luke Narveson 12, Sam Karl 14, Cameron Lark 14, Mitchel Stier 2, Gavin Dauwalter 6, Mitch Nelson 2, TOTALS 58
Central – Reid Wenisch 3 4-4 13, Zach Schnabel 0 0-0 0, Alex Eichner 0 0-0 0, Brice Panning 0 0-1 0, Noah Peterson 6 1-3 16, Andrew Cardinal 3 1-2 7, Carter Clemensen 5 2-2 16, Isaac Hormann 1 2-2 4, Casey Clemensen 2 4-5 8, TOTALS 20 14-19 64
Three Pointers – Belle Plaine 4, Central 10 (Car Clemensen 4, Peterson 3, Wenisch 3); Rebounds – BP 26, Central 17 (Weinisch 6); Assists – BP 13, Central 13 (Peterson 5); Steals – BP 2, Central 6 (Peterson 2, Car Clemensen 2); Blocks – BP 6
The Central boys faced Tri-City United again, this time on the road on Tuesday and close out the regular season on the road at Saint Clair on Feb. 21.
Class 2AA Section games begin Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the high seed.
Fellow teams in Central’s section include Minnesota River Conference teams Belle Plaine, Jordan, Mayer Lutheran, Sibley East, Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United, as well as Glencoe-Silver Lake, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Maple River, Medford, New Richland-H-E-G, St. Peter, Waseca and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.
“Things aren’t going to get any easier,” said Boyer. “Every night we play, from now on is playoff basketball. We don’t want any shocks coming into playoffs. We may end up with these guys (Belle Plaine), we may end up with Jordan, we may end up with Glencoe. We want to just be prepared with whoever we get.”
For up to date schedule information, visit www.mshsl.org.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.