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BOYS BASKETBALL: Cass Lake-Bena triples up WHA in first half, wins 85-42

Basketball is a game of runs. Rarely, though, is an entire half just one long run.

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Cass Lake-Bena sophomore Kaydin Lee (3) passes the ball in the second half against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Cass Lake-Bena High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

CASS LAKE – Basketball is a game of runs.

Rarely, though, is an entire half just one long run. That was the case on Tuesday night in Cass Lake, as the Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team ran over, around and through Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in a 53-16 first half. Removing their starters midway through the second half, the Panthers coasted to a 85-42 win to improve to 19-1.

“We try to tell them, you can't go into games overlooking people, regardless of what their record is,” CLB head coach John Wind said. “I know it's tough, but we have to focus, refocus… and try to work on something that we struggled with against, say, a better team.”

Despite a dominant overall record, the Panthers dropped their first game of the season on Feb. 4 against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa. That loss has motivated them to play up to their potential, regardless of the opponent.

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Cass Lake-Bena sophomore Kaydin Lee (3) scores in the first half against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Cass Lake-Bena High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“It motivates me not not to feel that way again,” sophomore guard Kaydin Lee said. “When we lost to BBE, it was just like the feeling that it was over again. And I don't want to have that happen again, especially in the section final like we did last year.”

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In 2021, CLB dropped the section championship to Badger/Greenbush-Middle River by just seven points in a 55-48 loss. This season, the Panthers plan to get the bitter taste of that loss out of their mouth with a state tournament berth.

Lee took it upon himself to control the game on Tuesday, scoring 16 points while getting his teammates involved by dishing out dimes. One of those teammates was senior forward Leroy Fairbanks IV, who finished with 24 points, several of which came off Lee’s assists.

Fairbanks has one more chance to win a section title, and Lee doesn’t intend to let him waste it.

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Cass Lake-Bena senior Kaiden Urrutia (1) scores in the first half against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Cass Lake-Bena High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“It’s very important,” Lee said. “I want to do it for them.”

Clearing the hurdle of a section crown will require Cass Lake-Bena to play as a team, something it did efficiently for most of the first half. The ball hopped around, with CLB players frequently passing up shots to give the ball to a teammate. After a slow 8-5 start, the Panthers pounced for 19 straight points to take a 27-5 lead. They continued to dig their claws in further from there, finishing the period on a 26-11 run.

The secret to their success was something that could serve them well come section time.

“When we played together, it was way better than playing as just individuals,” Lee said. “We got destroyed by BBE because we did that. And it was pretty ugly, actually.”

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Cass Lake-Bena senior Derek Wind (23) passes the ball in the second half against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Cass Lake-Bena High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

After packing up the Wolves, Cass Lake-Bena will next host Nevis at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17. It’s the start of a stretch that will test the Panthers’ mettle prior to section play.

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“We got some tough games up still,” Wind said. “We got Nevis coming in. We got Fosston, we got Mahnomen(/Waubun). We've got Nevis again. Those are four tough games, and that's nice to have those. It's not a cakewalk. We know that they're going to come in and they're going to give us their best.”

Cass Lake-Bena 85, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 42

WHA 16 26 -- 42

CLB 53 32 -- 85

WALKER-HACKENSACK-AKELEY (3-18) -- Moe 16, Deegan 11, Brock 10, Pfeiffer 3, Ashmore 2.

CASS LAKE-BENA (19-1) -- L. Fairbanks IV 24, K. Lee 16, D. Fairbanks 14, Urrutia 12, Whitebird 5, Brown Jr. 4, White 4, T. Lee 2, Reyes 2, Vail 2.

Related Topics: CASS LAKEBENABOYS BASKETBALL
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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