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It might have been easy to overlook Ryan Larson going into Saturday’s game. Cretin-Derham Hall’s senior point guard wasn’t the tallest player out there, or the most highly touted.
The players everyone wanted to see as the Raiders, ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A coaches' poll, hosted No. 1-3A DeLaSalle were two future University of Minnesota teammates in Cretin-Derham Hall’s Daniel Oturu and the Islanders’ Gabe Kalscheur.
Midway through the first half though, it was was clear that Larson came to play, and his teammates were going to follow him. In a raucous atmosphere and in front of a packed gym, one of the Raiders’ most important players made sure his teammates were also at their best.
Cretin-Derham Hall won the game 77-66, and while Larson’s 14 points didn’t lead the game, his hustle and composure drove the Raiders to a big early lead and a steady finish.
“He’s our engine,” Raiders coach Jerry Kline Jr. said. “He goes, we go. Everybody knows that."
Those who didn't know it beforehand certainly learned what Kline meant during the game. Larson rebound the ball, scored and fed assists to the likes of Oturu, Sy Chatman and Jacob Prince. Oturu had a game-high 25 points and Chatman added 17.
The Raiders have plenty of weapons, and their success takes the pressure off Larson.
“It just helps me get open more shots because the defense has to help off them,” he said. “And it just relaxes me.”
Plenty of non-box score plays stood out as well.
Twice, Larson leapt out of bounds to corral a loose ball and fling it off an Islander. One time his hustle ensured the Raiders got the ball, while the other didn’t end up working out.
He made smart plays on fast breaks, and another time, he poked the ball loose from an Islander in the backcourt, then dove to the floor to tap it ahead to a teammate for a breakaway finish. The rest of the Raiders tended to emulate that hustle.
When he was not doing all that, he was more than capable of getting to the rim himself and finishing. Worst-case scenario, he had to dump it off to the 6-10 Oturu or 6-8 Chatman.
“If [defenders] come and help, I can throw it up to Daniel or Sy, which is a lot of fun and I love doing it,” Larson said.
The energy helped early in the game, especially as the Raiders pushed the score from 11-11 to take 41-25 lead as the first half wound down.
And Larson wasn’t the only one working, as the Raiders’ tenacity was big against an Islanders squad that didn’t start making many shots until the second half.
“It’s just the energy and the mojo [Larson] brings,” Kline said. “The intensity, everybody else has to match. And they do.”
Larson’s skill set is such that on another team, the 6-1 guard might be the leading scorer. He’s quite content to run the show in a different way for Cretin-Derham Hall (18-1) this year.
Larson leads the team with 188 assists (10.4 assists per game) and 89 steals this season, and he averages 6.1 rebounds and 10.6 points per game.
He said his ability to control the floor and being a smart basketball player is due to just knowing the game, something every player has to have.
How did Larson gain his understanding of the game?
"Watch the NBA, watch college. Seeing the experts do that, that’s where I get it.”
The game lived up to its billing in more ways than one, but it was Cretin-Derham Hall that came away with the win on its home court.
Joe Mauer Field House was standing-room only Saturday for a clash between the Raiders, ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A coaches' poll, and No. 1-3A DeLaSalle.
The bleachers were full, and more than 100 fans lined the edge of the court and the balcony overlooking it. And all saw each team’s star shone in the matchup, but Cretin-Derham Hall had the stronger group effort in a 77-66 win.
The Raiders’ Daniel Oturu led all scorers with 25 points, and the Golden Gopher signee saw his future teammate, DeLaSalle’s Gabe Kalscheur, score 24 to lead the Islanders.
Both players got off to hot starts, but it was Cretin-Derham Hall that took a 43-31 lead into halftime.
DeLaSalle (15-4) came back out of the break firing, and chipped away until a Kalscheur three-pointer got the Islanders within 51-48. The Raiders responded with a 6-0 run, and the Islanders were never any closer than six points the rest of the way.
Sy Chatman had 17 points for Cretin-Derham Hall (18-1), while Ryan Larson added 14 and Jacob Prince had 10. Oturu added 11 rebounds for the Raiders.
DeLaSalle’s Jamison Battle was big in the second half, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds, and made four three-pointers. Junior Tyrell Terry started slow and scored all eight of his points in the second half. Sage Booker added eight points.
The MN Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.