The Raiders boys' basketball team hit the ground running at the Red Wing Quad over the weekend, scoring a total of 183 points while forcing 52 total turnovers in wins over Hastings and Hibbing.
Friday, Nov. 30, the Raiders were up 52-48 with ten minutes remaining before closing the game on a 42-20 run to beat Hastings, 94-68. Saturday they forced 26 turnovers for the second straight night and came up just one point short of the 90 mark in an 89-71 win over Hibbing.
With all five starters back from last year's team, head coach John Dornfeld said the first two games were a good indication of what the Raiders are capable of this season.
"While we lack length, we are athletic and quick, skilled, and experienced," he said. "I like the group's competitiveness, and our depth allows us to do some things we haven't done in the past. We are excited about the year."
And why not? Keyser Helterbrand, a 2017-18 second-team All-Big Rivers Conference forward and 2018 BRC co-football player of the year is back along with last year's second-leading scorer and all-conference honorable mention pick, Jacob Daulton.
Daulton hasn't even played in the first two games while nursing a football injury but Dornfeld is excited about what he can do when he joins Helterbrand and fellow returners Landen Bilse, Paul Sparstad, Charlie Neuenschwander and Luke Healy on the court.
Five Raiders scored in double figures in the season-opening win over Hastings, led by the sophomore Healy with 26. Bilse and Helterbrand finished with 17 each and Neuenschwander had 15 while Sparstad contributed 10.
Healy and Helterbrand scored 12 points each in the second half to help the Raiders pull away, but Dornfeld said it was the 26 turnovers forced on defense that led to some easy baskets.
"We have good athleticism and depth so we are extending our defense to the full court," he said. "We are pressing and trapping out of our man-to-man for most of the game."
Saturday's first half was similar to Friday's and the score was tied 42-42 at the half before Hudson's defense wore Hibbing out with another 26 forced turnovers.
"Hibbing played well and they continued to shoot it well but I believe we wore them down in the end and were able to pull away," Dornfeld said.
Peyton Reece hit four 3-pointers in the first half to keep Hudson in the game and finished with 14 points while Healy scored 20 to lead the Raiders for the second straight night. Helterbrand finished with 19 while Bilse gave Hudson four players in double figures with 17.
The Raiders visited Cottage Grove for another non-conference game Tuesday, Dec. 4, and will get their first taste of BRC action when they host conference favorite River Falls in their first game in the new high school gym Friday night, Dec. 7, at 7:15 p.m.
"River Falls is the popular pick to win the BRC but we feel like we should be part of that conversation.," Dornfeld said.