Boys hand Raiders first BRC lossWildcat boys’ basketball coach Greg Gaulke wants his players to know they can beat anybody.
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
Wildcat boys’ basketball coach Greg Gaulke wants his players to know they can beat anybody.
“But it’s been a roller coaster,” he said. “The boys need to know that they’ve beaten some giants and use that as an edge.”
The latest giant to fall to the Wildcats was Big Rivers Conference leader Hudson, who entered Friday night’s game at the high school undefeated in conference play and 10-1 overall. River Falls handed the Raiders their first conference loss of the season, 50-45.
But sandwiched around the victory were a pair of BRC losses — 59-43 last Tuesday at Chippewa Falls and 37-36 Monday at home to Rice Lake.
“We’ve proven we can beat anybody. The boys have the skills to do that,” Gaulke said. “But so much of basketball is about execution. And when you don’t execute, you have breakdowns.”
The Cats executed their game plan perfectly Friday night in their win over Hudson, holding Raider scoring machine Nate Roeder to just six points while showing plenty of patience on offense.
“We had a great plan going into that game and the boys stuck with the plan,” Gaulke said. “We knew we couldn’t match their outside shooting and we knew we couldn’t match their tempo, so our goal was to limit possessions, and that’s exactly what we did. Offensively, we took our time and took higher percentage shots, and defensively we mixed things up and gave them a lot of different looks.”
The Cats trailed by three, 21-18, at the break before Marty Herum opened the second half with a three-pointer to tie the score. There were 11 lead changes in the next 15 minutes until a layup by Zach Pavlichek with just over three minutes remaining in the game gave River Falls the lead for good, 43-42.
“It was like a chess game that worked in our favor,” Gaulke said.
A three-pointer by Sean Gilbert and a basket by Lance Westberg gave the Cats a four-point lead, 34-30, late in the third quarter but Hudson cut the gap to two on a put-back by Seth Stanchik at the end of the quarter.
A Gilbert layup to open the fourth quarter put River Falls ahead again by four, 36-32, but back-to-back three-pointers by Hudson put the Raiders on top, 40-39. The two teams traded baskets on four consecutive possessions until Pavlichek gave the Cats the lead for good, 43-42, with 3:10 remaining.
A free throw by Pavlichek and two by Eric Gilbertson widened the gap to 46-42 with 50 seconds left before Gilbert came up with a steal and was fouled making a layup. He hit the free throw to finish off the three-point play and extend the lead to seven, 49-42, with 13.6 seconds remaining.
The Raiders hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left before Pavlichek made the final 50-45 with a free throw with 5.2 ticks on the clock.
“That was a monstrous win for us,” Gaulke said. “The seniors have worked hard for years and finally took one from them.”
Gilbert led the Wildcats with 15 points and Westberg finished with 12. Six of Pavlichek’s nine points came in the fourth quarter while Gilbertson finished the game with eight. Stanchik led the Raiders with 15.
Last Tuesday at Chippewa Falls, the Cardinals hit nine three-pointers, including six in the third quarter, on their way to handing the Cats a 59-43 loss.
River Falls trailed by just one, 25-24, at the break before being outscored 18-12 in the third quarter with all of Chippewa’s points coming from long range.
“We looked flat,” Gaulke said. “There was a little flu going around but there were no excuses. Right out of the locker room we were flat and never got into the game and they put us away with six threes in the third quarter.”
Gilbert and Westberg had 10 points each to lead the Wildcats while Cole Zwiefelhofer led the Cardinals with 12.
Monday night against Rice Lake, a late turnover with a one-point lead doomed the Cats and let the Warriors escape with a 37-36 victory.
“Turnovers at the end are killers,” Gaulke said. “We had a one-point lead and that should be a victory. Instead we turn the ball over and it ends the ballgame.”
Gilbertson led River Falls with 12 points while Alex Culy led Rice Lake with 13.
The Wildcats, now 8-4 overall, 4-4 in BRC play, traveled to Amery (5-7) for a nonconference game Tuesday night and return to BRC action Thursday at Eau Claire Memorial (6-8, 4-3). Tuesday, Feb. 10, they visit Menomonie (0-13, 0-8).