Over its first 17 contests, the Central High School boys basketball team has been able to rely simply on its offense and athleticism to win plenty of games.
In its two losses, the Red Raiders felt like they weren’t up to par on the defensive side of the ball.
On Thursday night, Central took steps toward putting together a more complete game, toppling Holmen 73-44 in a MVC contest played before approximately 800 fans at the Mark Sutton Memorial Gymnasium.
“I think we have made some strides a little bit, but we’re kind of a work in progress,” coach Todd Fergot said of his Red Raiders (15-2, 6-1), who are ranked fifth in Division 2 in the latest AP poll. “I thought we did some good things and got off to a good start tonight, and I thought we shared the ball, especially early on.”
Central sophomore Johnny Davis led all scorers with 22 points, while junior David Hayden added 13 points for the Red Raiders. Senior Robert Hart paced the Vikings (7-11, 3-6) with 11 points.
The Red Raiders jumped out to a 14-2 lead and led 39-20 at one point. Central then used a 12-0 start to the second half to put the game away. Holmen shot 32 percent (15 of 46) from the field for the game, including just 28 percent (6 of 21) from the floor in the first half.
Junior guard Noah Parcher said that it’s defensive stretches like that which will become more important for the Red Raiders as the regular-season hits its stretch run.
“Defense is going to win us games for sure,” said Parcher, who chipped in nine points for Central. “Our length and how hard we play (is important.) How we start games, and how we come out with energy. When we come out with energy, we’ll play throughout the game that way.”
In the three games following an 81-69 loss at Onalaska on Jan. 19, the Red Raiders have won four straight, including nonconference wins over North St. Paul and Stoughton, plus a 69-52 win over Tomah.
“Since we lost (versus Onalaska), I think we’ve been really learning from that game,” Parcher said. “Obviously, we don’t want to lose again. I think our coach has scheduled some tough games against some tough Minnesota teams and we got the job done there, so I think we’ve learned from the (Onalaska) game. We’ve been playing a lot better.”
Fergot said that they key for Central is putting together a strong, consistent 36 minutes, especially with a rivalry week approaching, where the Red Raiders will host Aquinas on Tuesday and Logan Friday, Feb. 9.
“Defensively, I thought we were pretty solid (against Holmen), but we’ve got to get a full game of that,” Fergot said. “We can’t just have a half; we’ve got to have a full game. I think we’ve taken some steps since the last Onalaska game. (Against) Tomah, I thought we got better; North St. Paul was a really good team and I thought we played well against them. We’ve just got to keep working and try to clean up some of the mistakes that we’ve made.”