BOYS BASKETBALL: Cass Lake-Bena pulls away from Red Lake for rivalry win
You may be able to stay with the Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team for one half. You might even be able to stay attached for part of the second half. But over 36 minutes, it’s tough to keep up with the Panthers.
RED LAKE -- You may be able to stay with the Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team for one half. You might even be able to stay attached for part of the second half.
But over 36 minutes, it’s tough to keep up with the Panthers. CLB reminded onlookers of that on Thursday at Red Lake High School, as Kaydin Lee and Leroy Fairbanks IV helped the Panthers pull away from Red Lake in the second half. While the Warriors trailed by just two points at halftime, CLB stretched it to double digits in the second session and cruised to an 82-69 win.
“At the beginning of the game, Red Lake took us out of what we normally do,” Panthers head coach John Wind said. “They took us out of our comfort (zone), and the boys started falling into basically playing their type of game.”
Wind conversed with the team at halftime and reminded them what has made them successful this season. It led to the type of play they’ve gotten used to seeing this year.
“We went in and we talked about what was going on and the difference from what we normally do, what got us to this point,” Wind said. “So once they decided, ‘Well, we need to go back to what we were doing and what we've been doing,’ I think then it started getting smoother in the second half.”
Red Lake head coach Nolan Desjarlait thought his team brought a good game plan to the table. Eventually, though, Cass Lake-Bena’s ability to score in multiple ways made them too tough to stop.
“We prepared for them,” Desjarlait said. “They went into a clear-out (play), and we were getting slow on our defense, and that's where they capitalized on us.”
Lee and Fairbanks deployed an inside-outside attack against the Warriors and finished with 26 points each. Fairbanks said CLB’s versatile offense is pretty much ideal when it fully clicks in.
“It's one of the best things you can have,” Fairbanks said. “Anybody can hit the shot anywhere, layups, and the guy who can penetrate any defense. It’s big.”
Scoring will give the Panthers a chance to compete with anyone, but it’s their defense that will determine whether they can win a championship this year.
“In the first half, we took really dumb shots and weren't really playing team defense, talking and boxing out,” Fairbanks said. “And since we started doing those things, it just (worked).”
CLB (15-0) had designs on chasing a championship in 2021, but those didn’t pan out. That disappointment led Fairbanks, a senior leader, to redouble his efforts to lead the team there in his final year.
“We had a really good chance last year, but we didn't close it out in the section championship,” Fairbanks said. “And I think we're just using it as motivation this year.”
Dominic Fairbanks also contributed 20 points for the Panthers. Gerald Kingbird Jr. led Red Lake (5-11) with 31 points, with Kenneth Fox III chipping in 17 and Cade Beaulieu 10.
The rivalry game between the two teams brought out the largest crowd of the year to Red Lake’s home gym. It highlighted the strong relationship between the two communities despite their opposition on the court.
“The atmosphere is fun,” Desjarlait said. “It was a fun game. Had probably 200, 300 people. I'd like to say that’s the most we had in a couple years here. Last year, we had COVID and nobody around. And then this year, everyone's slowly starting to come out to the games. It was good to see the fans here tonight on both sides.”
“Our fan support was great,” Wind said. “Cass Lake and Red Lake, there's some fans that are in Cass Lake that are fans for Red Lake. Even when we play each other, I think there's a fan base in both communities. When Red Lake plays other teams, I'm sure our boys and our fans are behind them.”