Superior ends Cats’ seasonJust when it seemed the Wildcat boys’ basketball team was poised for its ninth regional title in the last 20 years, Superior spoiled the party.
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
Just when it seemed the Wildcat boys’ basketball team was poised for its ninth regional title in the last 20 years, Superior spoiled the party.
The Spartans erased a 10-point Wildcat lead at halftime behind a tenacious second half defensive effort to end the Cats’ season with as 46-43 victory in a WIAA Division 1 regional final Saturday in Superior.
“We had way too many turnovers in the second half,” Wildcat head coach Greg Gaulke said. “Superior came out of the locker room and it was a 100 percent difference. They started trapping half-court and full-court and we struggled against that. We had a 10-point lead and 10 seconds into the second half we turned the ball over twice and suddenly it’s down to six.”
The Wildcats led 13-9 after one and 27-17 at the break but Superior outscored River Falls 18-2 in the third quarter to take a 35-29 lead with eight minutes remaining. The Cats pulled to within two, 45-43, with nine seconds left but threw the ball away.
“We were all kind of in shock,” Gaulke said. “Everybody was ready, we watched numerous tapes of Superior and we had a game plan. We went into their place and did some nice stuff and opened up a 10 point lead, but Superior came out in the second half and played hard.”
Eric Gilbertson led the Wildcats with 14 points in his final high school game.
“Eric played his heart out,” Gaulke said. “He hit the floor hard and hurt his hip but he stayed in the middle. He had a noticeable limp but he kept going.”
Sean Gilbert added 10 points and Lance Westberg finished with eight in their final game as Wildcats.
River Falls reached the regional final with a last-second win over Eau Claire Memorial in a semifinal game last Tuesday. Westberg drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key with 24 seconds remaining to put the Cats up by one, 46-45, and junior Zach Pavlichek hit a pair of free throws with six seconds left to five the Cats a 48-45 victory.
“Basketball is a game of matchups and that one was back-and-forth,” Gaulke said. “We’d get a six point lead and they would come back.”
The game featured seven ties and nine lead changes. The Cats led 10-6 after one but the Old Abes led by two, 17-15, at halftime. River Falls regained the lead, 32-27, at the end of three and took its biggest lead of the game, 34-27, on a layup by Gilbert to start the fourth quarter.
Memorial answered with a pair of three-pointers and eventually tied the score, 38-38. The Old Abes took a one point lead on pair of free throws by Keegan Maier with just under three minutes remaining and extended it to two, 45-43, on a free throw by Spencer Tollefson with 1:05 to play.
After the Old Abes’ Ricky Caldwell missed a pair of free throws with 45.7 seconds remaining, the Cats called a time out and set up a play for Westberg, who drained his three-point attempt from the top of the key with 24 seconds remaining to give the Cats the lead for good, 46-45. It was Westberg’s third three-pointer of the game with all coming in the second half.
Junior Marty Herum led the Cats with 15 points and nine rebounds while Gilbertson finished with 10 points and Westberg nine.