Our message to the kids after the game, ‘way more good than bad’,” said Raider boys basketball coach Kevin Barnes, as his team played an inspired contest before coming up on the short end of a 49-38 final.

      “That is really encouraging when you have this much inexperience. Competing in a varsity basketball game is just different. When six of the seven kids who play have zero meaningful varsity minutes under their belts, it is way different.”

      But, early on that didn’t seem to matter as Anamosa (0-3, 0-3) erased a 12-6 first quarter deficit by going on a 14-4 second quarter run to take a stunning 20-16 lead into the half.

      “We got off to a slow start by just playing too fast early in the game,” Barnes said. “We had some really bad possessions on offense. Defensively, we battled early and that kept us in the game.”

      The Cougars hit the first shot of the second stanza and then the Raiders proceeded to go on a 14-2 run over the next seven minutes.

      “Eli (Lehrman) hit a three to start the run and that seemed to relax us,” Barnes said. “That was followed by baskets by Jake (Jess), Sam (Wilt) and Caleb (Otting). Andrew (Morris) threw in a two-pointer and to be honest, I felt really good at the half. Our biggest concerns coming into the game were could we guard and could we rebound at the varsity level. We did both extremely well all night long.”

      The third quarter saw the Cougars go on an 18-11 run taking a 34-31 lead into the final frame.

      “We started out sluggishly in the second half,” Barnes said. “They changes defenses and it took us a while to figure it out. Sam really took over in the third becoming ultra-aggressive scoring nine of our 11 points in the quarter.

      “With just under five-minutes to play we trailed 36-34 and simply could not make enough baskets from that point forward, and Cascade did.”

      The Cougars went on a 13-4 run to end the game with the 11-point season-opening triumph.

      Wilt finished with a game-high 22 points going 7-of-19 from the field, 3-of-8 from the 3-point line and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He added eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots in what was a sensational overall performance.

      Morris and Jess added five points each for the Anamosa offense.

      “Like I said, way more good than bad,” Barnes said. “We guarded all night long and we rebounded extremely well. We had a few too many turnovers, but in the end just didn’t make enough baskets. We have a lot to build on though.”

      The Raiders hit the home court for the first time this season Friday, Dec. 6, and against a scrappy team from Bellevue, were edged in a tight 49-44 decision.

      “I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I am of our kids,” Barnes said. “If you would have seen us practice two weeks ago, you would have wondered if we truly understood the concept of playing hard. Our first week of practice we did not have one guy get on the floor for any reason. I mean we just stood and watched. Against Bellevue, it looked like a football game at times, but we just battled our tails off.”

      Anamosa trailed all night long but always kept the Comets within striking range, and in the fourth quarter they took their shot.

      Trailing 36-29 entering the final frame, a Morris field goal, three Wilt free throws and a 3-pointer from Jess allowed the hosts to knot the score at 39-39.

      However, the Raiders not quite be able to get all the way over the hump.

      Bellevue held Anamosa to just two Otting free throws in a key five-minute stretch taking a 45-41 lead, but once again the Raiders gave it a shot.

      Jess drilled another long trey to pull the hosts to within a single point at 45-44, but two charity stripe shots by the Comets and a missed 3-poijnt heave at the buzzer by Anamosa ended the thrilling contest.

      “I thought Andrew really stood out,” Barnes said. “He was all over the boards. Jake showed signs offensively as well. It is important to take some of the load off Sam on the offensive end. Right now, he has to do an awful lot for this team. He had a double-double against Bellevue and that won’t be unusual for him this year.”

      Wilt tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds while adding five steals, three blocked shots and three assists. Jess added 11 points drilling three clutch treys while Morris ripped down eight boards.

      The busy season-opening week ended Saturday, Dec. 7, with a hard-fought 57-48 loss hosting West Branch.

      “It is really tough to come back and play hard on back-to-back nights early in the season,” Barnes said. “Especially as hard as we played against Bellevue. That being said, our kids did that against West Branch. They battled all night long.”

      Once again, the Raiders never led in the game, but played right with the Bears for four intense quarters trimming a 45-35 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to two points (48-46) with four minutes to play.

      “We had a tough shooting night again, but our defense kept us in the game,” Barnes said. “We forced some things and got ourselves some easy hoops along the way. Sam hit back-to-back three’s to start the quarter then Trae (Klatt) got a lay-up. West Branch hit a free throw and Sam followed with his third 3-pointer of the quarter and all of a sudden we were down to two with just under four-minutes to go.”

      The Bears hit another free throw them added a trey of their own to once again extend their lead and the hosts would get no closer in the nine-point defeat.

      “We continue to defend and rebound well,” Barnes said. “We had too many turnovers and bad shots though, yet someway found ourselves down one possession late in the fourth. We just have to figure things out offensivelty.”

      Wilt was brilliant scoring a game-high 26 points, drilling four treys, while adding 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and two steals to his phenomenal all-around performance. Klatt added 10 points while Jess helped the long-range game with two more 3-pointers.

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