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Cats struggle out of break

Wildcat junior Luke Murphy (12) squeezes by two Hudson defenders to score two of his team-high 18 points in the Cats' 49-43 victory over the Raiders Friday night at the high school gym. <i>Bob Burrows photo</i>

After going three weeks without playing a game over the holidays, the Wildcat basketball team played three games in five days last week and came away with mixed results.

The Cats dropped a 44-41 decision at Eau Claire North last Tuesday. They rebounded with a 49-43 victory over Hudson Friday night at home before losing the following afternoon in Holmen, 59-55.

River Falls, now 7-3 overall, 4-2 in Big Rivers Conference play, will visit Menomonie (3-9, 2-4) Friday at 7:30 p.m. before hosting Tomah (5-9) in a nonconference game Saturday at 2 p.m. at Meyer Middle School.

Wildcat coach Greg Gaulke said the long holiday break appeared to affect the Cats in their game at Eau Claire North last Tuesday.

"That was somewhat of a disappointment," he said. "Not to make excuses, but the break was just too long and it hurt us in some aspects. We just came out flat; everything was a little off."

North on the other hand played two games over the break and hit its first four shots -- all three-pointers -- to jump out to a 12-0 lead. River Falls rallied to tie the game 26-26 at halftime on a three-pointer by Luke Murphy at the buzzer, but the Huskies scored the first six points of the second half and never trailed after that.

Murphy finished with 16 points in the loss while Alex Call added eight and Brad Freeborn scored seven. Eric Wunrow contributed a team-high eight rebounds and four points.

After a slow start Friday night at home against Hudson, the Wildcats led by as many as 15 late in the fourth quarter before the Raiders trimmed it to six at the end.

"That was a fabulous high school game," Gaulke said. "A packed house with your neighbors here and both student sections into it. It was all you could ask for a high school game."

Hudson struck early and built an 8-2 before the Wildcats closed the first quarter with a 9-0 run to go up 11-8 at the first break. The Wildcats led by two, 21-19 at halftime and were up by just one, 24-23, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter before a 6-0 run widened the gap to 30-23.

River Falls opened the fourth quarter on a 13-5 run to open up a 15-point lead, 43-28, midway through the fourth quarter and still led by ten, 47-37, with 40 seconds remaining before Hudson's Alex Herink hit three three-pointers in the closing seconds to make the final 49-43.

"That's why you have to hit your free throws and have a lead at the end," Gaulke said.

Murphy led the Cats with 18 points and Freeborn added 11 while Call chipped in with seven. Hudson's Herink led all scorers with 26.

Saturday the Cats took a long bus ride to Holmen for an afternoon contest and came away on the short end of a 59-55 score.

"That was hard," Gaulke said about the quick turnaround and long trip. "All-in-all I thought we outplayed Holmen, we just missed a few shots that could have turned the game around."

Murphy and Wunrow both recorded double-doubles in the loss. Murphy finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Wunrow had 11 points and 11 boards while Freeborn added 12 points and Tanner Heinselman contributed five.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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