Raiders back in business after two tough losses
The No. 9A Lake Park-Audubon Raiders had a lot of time to ponder the first two defeats of the season and were back on the court Monday chalking up a big victory over Norman County West 66-34 in Pine to Prairie Conference boys basketball action at Audubon.
After a 6-0 start to the season, the Raiders lost at the buzzer to Park Christian on Dec. 22 and came back after the holiday break to face a surging Ada-Borup squad that won in Audubon by 13 points on Jan. 5.
Both teams were charged to take down the defending section champions and both gymnasiums were full and loud as each game the Raiders take to the court is a big game, especially for their opponents.
Monday, the Raiders came out like a team that has won 29 of the past 32 games, building a 30-8 lead early and cruising into halftime up 31 points, 43-12.
For head coach Kyle Haberman, coming back to the floor was less about refocusing the team and more about the team’s internal focus.
“Understanding who we are; we have everybody gunning for us,” Haberman said. “They’re playing as hard as they can. So many of our guys besides Mitchell (Hall) and Jesse (Bergh) are waiting for something good to happen. That’s the difference. If they go out and make something good happen, like they did tonight, we’re going to be just fine. When teams do stuff and we get complacent, we’re not very good.”
Center Jesse Bergh had most of the second half off as the game was well in hand and each of the Raider starters gave way to each member of the bench in a second half that saw running time.
“They’re a good team. They just picked a bad night to be playing us,” said Haberman.
Freshman Preston Gwin led the Panthers with eight points.
The Raiders have gotten plenty of production from Bergh and Hall this season and Grant Pederson is also averaging in double figures. Pederson led all scorers with 16 points; Hall had 14, Bergh a dozen and Carter Raaen added 10. That scoring balance is imperative to future success, especially in big games.
“In order for us to get to where we want to go, we have to start having those three, four, five, six make plays and make wins,” said Haberman. “We can’t sit there against really good teams like Ada or Park Christian and wait for something awesome to take place. It’s a new thing for these guys.”
Teams that can match up with the Raiders can suck their defense down on Bergh but he scored 41 against Park Christian in a losing effort. While he and Hall are the catalysts for Raider success, wins are only going to come from team effort.
“Lately, teams have been really comfortable against us and that’s the difference,” said Haberman.
Which won’t fly in the Pine to Prairie Conference. The state-ranked Raiders came into Monday’s game behind Ada-Borup (6-0) and NCE/UH (4-1). There are not a lot of easy games, more so in the south half of the conference.
“The Pine to Prairie Conference is really tough,” said Haberman. “Park Christian was the eighth-seed last year and who would want to play that team? We wanted to play in that conference championship and we kind of made it where once again we can’t lose. So, we have to play with the mentality that every night we’re going to win.”
The Raiders (7-2, 4-2) accomplished that handily Monday and hit the road to Waubun (4-4, 2-4) Friday, Jan. 13 in another conference game. LP-A defeated the Bombers at home 82-53 in mid-December.
NCW 12 22 — 34
LPA 43 23 — 66
NCW - Gwin 8, Garcia 6, Spaeth 5, Carlson 4, DePoppe 3, Armstrong 2, Borgen 2, Beliles 2, Hellerud 2.
LPA - Pederson 16, Hall 14, Bergh 12, Raaen 10, Frank 6, Vohnoutka 4, Bjerke 2, Svare 2.