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MOWEAQUA — Good luck finding a Central A&M basketball player who was happy with how they played in Tuesday's win over Pana.

The Raiders shot 32 percent in that game and hardly resembled the free-flowing offense they're used to.

On Friday, Central A&M looked more like the team that returned four starters from last year's sectional championship team on the way to a 65-35 win against LSA.

“I thought we were a little looser on the offensive end than we were the other night," A&M coach Rob Smith said. "We shot 32 percent the other night. We’re not going to do that very often."

A&M (2-0) broke out early connecting on six first-quarter 3-pointers and shot a blistering 50 percent, including hitting 6-of-11 triples on the way to a 26-2 lead.

“The first quarter, definitely, we were shooting lights out," A&M junior Connor Heaton said. "Everyone was making shots. Brycen (Burgener) banked in a 3, that’s just how shots were falling tonight."

There was little LSA could do to slow the three-headed scoring monster of Heaton, Griffin Andricks and Jacob Paradee.

“When a team makes 6 out of 7 3-pointers to start the first quarter you just take it," LSA coach Tom Saunches said.

Paradee finished with a game-high 20 points with five rebounds, Andricks had 17 points and five rebounds as he recovers from a back stinger he suffered on Tuesday and Heaton had 15 points and nine rebounds.

“It’s hard to guard," Paradee said. "We have so many threats on our team, you can’t focus on one person. Hopefully that takes us pretty far."

The Raiders shot 41 percent on the night, much better than the 32 percent on Tuesday.

“We shot a lot better," Andricks said. "We can shoot better. We’ve got to keep practicing and get a lot of shots up so we can shoot our best."

For as crafty as Andricks was in the post, or for how Heaton careened through the lane for layups, Paradee was the catalyst for the Raiders.

He's the defensive spark plug of the team, hopping passing lanes and sprinting in transition. The offense gets energized when Paradee starts scoring, especially when he hits 8-of-14 shots and drains four 3-pointers.

“It does a lot because Jacob’s our horse on defense, he gets out and runs and he can just make plays on offense," Heaton said. "When he’s shooting that widens our whole offense and spreads it out. They’ve got to go out and guard him and he’ll just beat you off the dribble. That does a lot for our team."

The Raiders doubled down their defensive efforts on LSA's (2-4) Grant Karsten and Michael Fiala. Karsten finished with 18 points and six rebounds and Fiala scored nine points.

Saunches called Karsten a "prolific" scorer. Karsten scored on all three levels; driving to the hoop, pulling up in the mid-range and burying 3-pointers.

The value of seeing scorers like those two wasn't lost on the Raiders.

“They’re really good shooters," Andricks said. "They’re two of the best shooters I’ve ever seen in game. It’s good to play against them so we can be prepared for state if we go there. We’ve got to keep playing well."

Said Heaton: “Seeing guys like that, that prepares our defense for everything. Not only do the guys guarding them have to play a great game, but guys playing help defense have to play a great game too. We have to communicate. That gets things rolling. When we’re talking on the floor we’re having a good time. Playing against those two guys will help us in the long run."

For now, the Raiders are rounding back into form in preparation of a season that winds deep through the playoffs. A&M has played just two games this season. Paradee admitted it was tough to get out of football mode, but Friday was a step forward ahead of the Macon County Tournament, which begins next week at Maroa-Forsyth.

“I think we’re starting to click a little bit," Heaton said. "We have four starters back, right? But we’re missing (graduated) Jameson (Smith) and Tate (Paradee) right now, but we’re really coming together and playing as a team. We’re starting to click."

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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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