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Boys' Basketball: Raptors rally falls short at Cretin-Derham Hall

Forward Ben Carlson of East Ridge goes up for two points late in the second half against Cretin-Derham Hall Saturday afternoon. Carlson scored 15 points for the Raptors. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 3
East Ridge senior guard Nick Christenson is fouled as he drives the lane with East Ridge trailing 50-40 with 6:55 to play Saturday afternoon. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 3
East Ridge and Cretin-Derham Hall players scramble for a loose ball in the second half at Cretin Saturday afternoon. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 3

With 7:42 remaining, East Ridge trailed by 11 at 50-39 and looked dead in the water.

Instead, the Raptors staged a furious late rally at Cretin-Derham Hall Saturday afternoon only to fall short and bow out 66-61.

The Raptors closed to 65-61 with 15 seconds to play on a 3-point field goal by Michael Virgin. Cretin turned the ball over at the other end, and the Raptors had another shot at tightening the game further. But a long three-point attempt by star forward Courtney Brown Jr. just rimmed out, and the Raiders escaped with the win.

“I loved our effort,” East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. I love coaching this team. We are a family, and these kids keep working hard. They never give up. They play the right way. We play by the rules; we’re doing a great job.”

It was another in a long-running series of hard-fought, bruising battles between these two Suburban East Conference foes. The Raiders have gotten the better of the rivalry recently, winning six straight. Five of the six Cretin-Derham Hall wins have been by six points or less.

“First of all, they have a lot of good players,” Virgin said of the Raiders. “They have a lot of good individual players that miraculously seem to show up at their school, and they’re totally different than they were last year. They’ve got four new guys. So they have exceptional players. So we’re trying to make sure that our team is going to be better than their players and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Cretin-Derham Hall remained undefeated in the conference, improving to 3-0 and a 5-4 record overall. The Raiders have played a daunting non-conference schedule, meeting No. 3 Lakeville North, No. 6 Apple Valley, No. 5 Park Center and No. 4 Wayzata. Undoubtedly, those games have toughed up the Raiders.

East Ridge slipped to 2-1 in the conference and 7-3 on the season.

Brown led a balanced East Ridge offense with 18 points. Ben Carlson scored 15, Nick Christenson had 13 and Michael Virgin nine.

“I was happy with the way we moved the ball,” said Virgin. “Our shot selection (was good), our defense, we did a pretty good job boxing out. But they’re just so big and physical, and they pushed us underneath, and that was hard for some of us. But then we’ll remember that when we need to get in the weight room in the summer and get stronger, so that doesn’t happen next year. But it wasn’t a lack of effort.”

Cretin pulled away early in the second half, taking a 43-28 lead with 12:29 to play. But the Raptors went on a 20-11 run to cut the Cretin lead to 54-48 with 4:43 to play. The Raptors closed to within five points or less three times in the final three minutes, but the Raiders had an answer on each occasion.

East Ridge’s Christenson and Virgin both knocked down clutch threes to help close the gap.

East Ridge (7-3, 2-1) is scheduled to play at White Bear Lake (0-2, 1-9) Tuesday.

“First of all they have a lot of good players,” Virgin said of the Raiders. “They have a lot of good individual players that miraculously seem to show up at their school, and they’re totally different than they were last year, they’ve got four new guys. So they have exceptional players. So we’re trying to make sure that our team is going to be better than their players and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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