The only thing the Wildcats boys' basketball team's two games last week had in common is that they were both victories.
After surviving a sluggish effort that saw them hit just 9 of 46 field goal attempts in a 33-28 nonconference victory Tuesday night over Amery, the Wildcats hit their shots, pounded the boards and dove for loose balls in Friday night's 40-35 Big Rivers Conference win over Hudson.
"They were two opposite types of games," River Falls head coach Greg Gaulke said. "Tuesday night there just wasn't a lot of emotion. We were cold and they were cold. If you wanted to see a lot of basketballs going through the hole, that wasn't the game to be at."
The Wildcats and Warriors combined to make just 19-of-94 field goal attempts in the game. River Falls shot 19.6 percent from the field while Amery was slightly better with a 20.8 percent clip (10-of-48). The Cats held Amery scoreless in the third quarter while scoring just four points themselves.
But Gaulke said the Cats' cold-shooting was just a small part of their struggles.
"We like to be a blue-collar, workaholic team," he said. "That's what I was disappointed with more than anything. We don't watch balls go out of bounds, we go after them. We let our cold shooting affect other parts of the game."
Zach Pavlichek hit 7-of-10 free throws and led the Cats with 13 points while Marty Herum scored six points and McClane Sherman four. Sherman also pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
Friday night was a different story as Wildcat fans packed the gym for the game against Hudson, including a "white-out" in the student section that was organized by the newly-formed River Falls Pep Club. All the students wore white and were on their feet the entire game cheering on the Cats.
"That was a good, old-fashioned high school basketball game," Gaulke said. "The atmosphere was great and the players feed off that."
The Cats trailed early, 10-7, before taking an 18-15 halftime lead on a put-back by Pavlichek and a jumper by Sherman.
Hudson opened up a 24-22 lead early in the second half but a three-pointer by Sherman gave the Cats the lead for good, 25-24, midway through the third quarter. Another three-pointer by Sherman to start the fourth quarter widened the gap to five, 33-28, and the Cats took their biggest lead of the game, 39-30, when Marty Herum found his younger brother Jack for an easy layup with 2:30 remaining.
Hudson pulled to within four, 39-35, with 29.7 seconds left but that's as close as they could get.
Gaulke was much happier with Friday night's effort.
"We dominated the boards and were diving for loose balls, things we weren't doing Tuesday night," he said. "We played a smart game. We were patient on offense and took the high-percentage shot and we didn't commit any turnovers in the fourth quarter. That was huge."
Sherman led the Cats with 17 points, including three three-pointers, while Marty Herum added eight points and seven rebounds and Jack Herum had seven points, seven rebounds and four steals. Pavlichek added six points and a team-high 10 rebounds as the Cats outrebounded the Raiders 33-22.