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Boys win 2 of 3

Wildcat senior Eric Wunrow goes up high for a tip in for two of his seven points in the Cats' 57-48 loss to top-ranked Onalaska last Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the high school gym. <i>Bob Burrows photos</i>1 / 2
Wildcat senior Brad Freeborn goes up strong for two of his 12 points in the second half of the Cats' 57-48 loss to Onalaska last Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the high school.2 / 2

The Wildcat boys' basketball team couldn't hold on to a third quarter lead against top-ranked Onalaska last Tuesday but came back with victories over New Richmond and St. Paul Highland Park later in the week.

The Cats dropped a 57-48 decision to Onalaska before beating New Richmond, 75-45, Friday, Feb. 8 and St. Paul Highland Park, 59-57, Saturday, Feb. 9.

River Falls took a one-point lead over the top-ranked Hilltoppers on a jumper by Eric Wunrow one minute into the second half and extended it to five, 33-28, following a Luke Murphy three-pointer midway through the third quarter but Onalaska's Iowa State University recruit Matt Thomas took over and scored 15 of his game-high 24 points the rest of the way to lead the Hilltoppers to their 18th victory in 20 games.

"We thought we played well," Wildcat coach Greg Gaulke said. "We had shots that we normally hit that would have put us up at halftime. We took the lead in the third quarter but then Thomas took control."

The Cats tied the score two more times in the third, on a jumper by Murphy to make the score 35-35 with three minutes remaining, and on a layup by Brad Freeborn at the two minute mark to make it a 37-37 game.

Onalaska took a 42-38 lead into the fourth quarter and never let the Cats get any closer.

Murphy and Freeborn finished with 12 points each in the loss while Wunrow and Tanner Heinselman each scored seven. Alex Call chipped in with six and DeMarcus Zeroth had two to round out the Wildcat scoring.

Freeborn just missed a double-double with nine rebounds while Heinselman dished out three assists.

Friday at New Richmond, Murphy and Call scored 19 points apiece and Freeborn had 14 points as the Cats routed the Tigers, 75-45.

"The boys played well," Gaulke said. "The team passing was fabulous, they played good team defense; everyone was on the same page. It was fun to watch."

Heinselman contributed nine points and Wunrow had eight while Zeroth, Kyle Duex and Sam Barr scored two each.

Saturday the Cats held off St. Paul Highland Park for a two-point victory at home.

"It was a great game," Gaulke said. "Any time you go against one of those inner city teams it's a different style. We could have put the game away with free throws but that's been a thorn in our side. That can't happen."

After a slow start, Murphy exploded for 26 points in the victory.

"That's the first time Luke had seen a box-and-one defense and it bugged him in the beginning," Gaulke said.

Wunrow added 13 points and seven rebounds and Call added 10 points while Freeborn scored eight and Zeroth had two.

The Cats will wrap up the regular season at Hudson on Friday, Feb. 15.

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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