It was pretty clear early in Tuesday night’s home opener that the Central High School boys basketball team didn’t appreciate the fact that it surrendered 87 points in its previous game.
That game was a one-point double-overtime loss to Eau Claire North last week.
The tenacity and determination which the Red Raiders showed in a 70-41 nonconference win over Marshfield, especially in the first half, led to a 42-7 cushion at the break. It was proof that allowing 87 points will most likely be the exception rather than the rule.
“It was a really good accomplishment for our team,” said Central sophomore Johnny Davis, who led all scorers with 24 points. “We have been working on our defense over the last couple of practices after the Eau Claire North game and we just really wanted to not give up that many points again.”
The Red Raiders (1-1) surrendered the first basket of the game, and then went on a 24-0 run to take a commanding lead with just under 9 minutes left in the first half. Central forced the Tigers (2-3) into 20 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.
“I think we learned from last game that we came out really flat, and coach stressed in practice that we need to come out strong,” said Central junior Noah Parcher, who chipped in 11 points and led all players with seven assists. “I think we came out strong and played really good defense with a lot more energy, and the fast break was a lot better, too.”
Central coach Todd Fergot credited a successful film session on Saturday morning, combined with high-energy practices, that got the Red Raiders closer to the level that helped guide the program to a WIAA Division 2 state title a season ago.
“I just thought that we were a little bit more back to who we are as a team and as a program,” Fergot said. “I thought we came out a little more focused and we took care of details a little bit better. I don’t know if it’s anything more than that. It’s just us doing our stuff the way we need to every possession.”
The Red Raiders scored 19 points off turnovers in the first half, and allowed Marshfield just one offensive rebound before the break.
“I thought they played with energy tonight on the defensive end,” Fergot said. “That got us going offensively, too. We were the aggressor, and if you can get some deflections and some turnovers where you can transition out of it, I think that plays to the strength of our team.”
After giving up 80 points just twice a season ago — in a 92-81 win over state power Kaukauna and in a 98-83 shootout against current Wisconsin Badgers player Nathan Reuvers and Lakeville (Minn.) North — the Red Raiders were much happier limiting an opponent to 41 points.
“I thought that defensive effort the other night was not where we needed it to be,” Fergot said. “Eau Claire North is a very good team and they’re going to beat some good teams, but we did not take care of details like we did tonight.”
Central will have an opportunity to continue that effort when it hosts Eau Claire Memorial on Friday, a game that is scheduled to be the Red Raiders’ debut of 6-foot-7 sophomore Terrance Thompson.
“I think we’ll be a lot better with Terrance,” Parcher said of Central’s defensive potential. “We’re kind of small right now, we have five guards in, so Terrance will be a big factor with people driving in and the intimidation factor.”