The Hastings Raiders girls' basketball team has lost its last three games in a row after they started Metro East Conference play with with three straight wins. The Raiders lost at Woodbury 71-59 on Saturday, Jan. 13, fell at MEC-leading Mahtomedi 68-40 on Tuesday, Jan. 16, and then dropped a home game to Tartan 54-42 on Thursday, Jan. 18. One positive that came from the rough stretch for Hastings was senior Krystal Carlson, a University of Sioux Falls commit, surpassing 2,000 points in her prep career as she continues to extend her mark as the leading scorer in Hastings basketball history. The Raiders are now 10-6 overall and 3-2 in the MEC, a game-and-a-half back of Mahtomedi and tied for third with four other teams.

2,000 points

Carlson passed the 2,000-point mark in the home game against Tartan and is still in a bit of shock over the achievement.

"I would say that 1,000 points has always been a reachable number but 2,000 points still sounds so surreal," she said.

Head coach Padrick Judd agreed, saying that a perfect storm of circumstances has to occur for a player to reach 2,000 points.

"It is truly been a pleasure as a coach to watch every point of Krystal's career," he said. "Even though kids play more games in the regular season now then 15 years ago, getting 1,000 points is a big accomplishment. So when a player reaches 2,000 points, you know that a lot of things have to happen for a player to accomplish this: You have to be a dedicated player, both during and outside of practice; you have to develop your game every year; and you have to stay healthy and be lucky not to miss games to injuries. Krystal is that player. She has reached this milestone because she has done all of this, and on top of that she is a true competitor and plays all-out every second she is on the floor. She is what every future Raider player should inspire to be like."

What needs to be done

While Hastings' three losses have come to good teams, they have played uncharacteristically for significant portions of all three. Against Woodbury, the Raiders struggled to shoot from the field, as well as from the free-throw line. They also had 19 turnovers, a combination that could have resulted in a worse loss to the Royals had Hastings not battled in the second half. Against Mahtomedi, the cold shooting was even worse as after being down 14 (39-25) at halftime, the Raiders scored just 15 second-half points. Then at home against Tartan, it was a tight first half but cold shooting once again did Hastings in (one-for-16 from three and 14-for-63 from the field).

"We have lost to some good teams, but we have also beat ourselves by not taking care of the ball, missing layups and free throws, and forcing the issue when things do not go our way," said Judd. "We are just rushing shots right now. Kids are not relaxing and shooting with confidence like at the beginning of the season. If we can get back to that, along with making good passes to set up those shots, then the shots will start to fall."

Carlson took responsibility for her role in the shooting slump, but said that rebounding, turnovers and communication must improve.

"As a team we need to reduce our number of turnovers in a game and really focus on crashing the boards," she said. "Personally, I'm in a slump with my free throws but I'm starting to get the right touch back. For the rest of the season the team needs to improve on our communication, not only on defense but on offense as well. Our confidence on offense needs to improve, the girls need to be looking to score more or a hard drive to the basket and kick out (to shooters). Lastly, we can't get caught staring at the ball when a shot goes up, we have to work on crashing the boards and boxing out."

Despite the rough stretch, both Judd and Carlson said there has been some silver linings.

"Well, we have had moments where we played well," Judd said. "The second half of Woodbury we battled well and took it to them. The first half of Mahtomedi we battled back after being down early and showed we could play with them. The problem is we have not played a complete game like this in quite a while. Hopefully next week we can do that."

"From the losses, a positive would be that players who don't see as much playing time on varsity are getting opportunities to play against other schools' top players," Carlson added. "Also, I take losing as a learning experience, noticing what things don't work out and how we can change it for the rest of the season."

Hastings hosted Hill-Murray on Tuesday, Jan. 23, and travels to Henry Sibley on Friday, Jan. 26.