Cats hand Mustangs first BRC lossThe Menomonie boys’ basketball team came to River Falls Jan. 17, as one of two undefeated teams in Big Rivers Conference play. It left with its first conference loss of the season.
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
The Menomonie boys’ basketball team came to River Falls Jan. 17, as one of two undefeated teams in Big Rivers Conference play. It left with its first conference loss of the season.
The Wildcats made sure of that by opening up a six-point halftime lead and taking care of the basketball down the stretch to hold off the Mustangs for a 52-49 victory.
The loss dropped Menomonie to 4-1 in BRC play (7-5 overall) while evening the Wildcats’ record at 3-3 against conference opponents.
“That was a good win; handing Menomonie their first conference loss,” River Falls coach Greg Gaulke said. “We like to do that kind of thing.”
The Cats used a 14-8 second quarter run to open up a 23-17 lead at the break. The Mustangs got as close as three in the third quarter but a three-pointer by Chris Scott and an off-balance put-back by junior Eric Wunrow at the buzzer gave the Cats a nine-point lead, 39-30, with one quarter to play.
Menomonie got to within two, 48-46, with 1:20 remaining before free throws by junior Tanner Heinselman and Wunrow made it a 50-46 game with 10.5 seconds left.
The Mustangs’ Lex Pelke hit a three-pointer with two seconds left to cut the Wildcat lead to 50-49 and Menomonie immediately called a time out. When play resumed, junior Brad Freeborn threw a long inbounds pass to a streaking Wunrow, who out jumped a Menomonie defender, tipped the ball to himself, turned and hit a layup as time expired.
Gaulke said he was pleased with the way the Cats protected the ball and hit their free throws down the stretch.
“To win ballgames you have to protect the ball and we did that,” he said. “The boys came out and played. It was nip and tuck but we hit some key shots and got some free throws down the stretch. That was key.”
Sophomore Luke Murphy led the Wildcats with 18 points while Wunrow added 11. Freeborn chipped in with eight points in the victory and Heinselman scored five while Alex Call had four, Scott finished with three, Auggie Pupungatoa scored two and Jake Knotek added one.
Friday night the Cats dropped a 48-34 nonconference decision to Woodbury, Minn. Wunrow finished with 10 points and Call had nine while Freeborn scored seven, Murphy had six and Knotek added two.
“They are a quality team with only two losses,” Gaulke noted. “There was a time in that fourth quarter when we were down five but we just couldn’t capitalize. They were getting too many second and third tip-ins and rebounds. I didn’t think their offense was any better than us, but they got too many second and third chances.”
After traveling to BRC leader Rice Lake (6-0, 13-1) Jan. 24, the Wildcats, 5-8 overall, will host Eau Claire North (0-6, 0-13) the night of Friday, Jan. 27, before heading over to Minneapolis the night of Monday, Jan. 30 to take on Baldwin-Woodville (9-3) at Target Center. The Wildcat girls’ will face the Blackhawks at 5 p.m. while the boys will play at 7 p.m.
That will be a good memory for them,” Gaulke said. “They get to play where the Timberwolves play on an NBA court. It will be exciting.”