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Falcons drop two close ones

UW-River Falls junior Wade Guerin drives to the basket to score two of his 10 points in the Falcons' 72-71 loss to fourth-ranked St. Thomas last Tuesday at Karges Center. Bob Burrows photo

UW-River Falls came within one point of knocking off the No. 4 basketball team in the nation last Tuesday.

The Falcons trailed St. Thomas by 15 points with seven minutes remaining and mounted a furious comeback to pull to within one, 72-71, but couldn't get the potential game-winning shot to fall in the final 15 seconds.

Saturday the Falcons led most of the game before dropping a 77-74 decision at Sioux Falls, S.D.

UW-RF, now 2-3 overall, will open WIAC play Wednesday at 7 p.m. at home against UW-Superior. Saturday it hosts another nationally-ranked opponent: No. 10, UW-Stevens Point.

Last Tuesday against the fourth-ranked Tommies, the Falcons scored the first six points of the game, only to have St. Thomas take its first lead, 18-17, midway through the half. St. Thomas led by as many as nine in the first half before the Falcons trimmed it to five, 36-31, at the break.

After pulling within two early in the second half, the Falcons' went cold on offense and the Tommies' lead ballooned to 64-49 with 7:05 remaining. But a three-pointer by Aaron Anderson and a three-point play by Jake Voeltz sparked a Falcon run that brought them to within four, 68-64, following a three-point play by Brady Hannigan with 2:16 remaining.

St. Thomas extended its lead to eight, 72-64, before the Falcons got a pair of free throws from Voeltz, a layup by Hannigan, a free throw from Danny Johnson and two free throws from Jontae Koonkaew to make it a one-point game, 72-71, with 34 seconds left.

St. Thomas missed the front end of a one-and-one with 15 seconds remaining but the Falcons couldn't get the winning basket.

"I thought our guys played extremely hard," Falcon coach Jeff Berkhof said. "Our effort was outstanding. I thought the difference in the game was the poor stretch of offense we had in the second half. Our turnovers led to easy baskets for them and we just couldn't quite catch them. Obviously, I was extremely proud in how they battled back and we were right there at the end."

Voeltz led the Falcons with 18 points while Hannigan finished with 17 and Wade Guerin added 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Anderson and Johnson each contributed seven points in the loss.

Saturday at Sioux Falls, Voeltz had 20 points, seven rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal but the Falcons couldn't hold onto a nine-point second half lead and dropped a 77-74 decision.

The score was tied, 37-37, at halftime before UW-RF built a 52-43 lead following a layup by Guerin with 14 minutes remaining. But Sioux Falls chipped away and took the lead for good, 72-71, with 1:19 to play before holding off the Falcons for the win.

"Just a disappointing loss," Berkhof said. "We led throughout the second half, but we just didn't finish them off like we needed to."

Guerin finished with 15 points and Hannigan added 11 while Koonkaew finished with nine points and seven rebounds.