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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Opening the season on the road against a St. Paul Johnson team was a great challenge for the Wildcat boys basketball team. Unfortunately they didn't get the result they wanted. St. Paul Johnson used a pair of game-changing runs to erase an early Wildcat lead in the first half then pull away in the second half despite a 24-point, 16-rebound night from River Falls senior Jaxon Knotek.
After dropping their first Big Rivers Conference game to Eau Claire North, 67-54, Tuesday, Nov. 28, the Wildcat girls basketball team lost a pair of games at its home quad over the weekend, falling to Stillwater, 77-54, Friday, Dec. 1, and Tartan, 80-61, Saturday, Dec. 2, to slip to 0-5 on the season. The Wildcats outscored Eau Claire North in the second half last Tuesday but couldn't overcome a 15-point halftime deficit in their BRC opener.
Wildcat wrestling coach Kevin Black believes the Cats are closing the gap with three-time defending Big Rivers Conference champion and state team qualifier Hudson, but they're not quite there yet. The Wildcats trailed the Raiders by just one point, 34-33, in their season opener Thursday, Nov. 30, in Hudson, but Hudson scored the maximum 12 points in the final two matches of the night to post a 46-33 victory.
The WIAA State Gymnastics Championships in Wisconsin Rapids are still three months away, but River Falls made an early-season visit to the site of the state meet last weekend and showed that it's focused on getting back to state for the 17th straight year. Two-time defending Division 2 state floor champion Sam Krueger won the all-around title and freshman Autumn Tiede made a splash in her varsity debut as the Wildcats took first at the Wisconsin Rapids Invitational with a team score of 136.9 Saturday, Dec. 2.
The first night of competition for the Wildcat boys swimming and diving team Tuesday, Nov. 28, against Eau Claire Alliance produced some good results for the Cats. Senior diver Huck Boles placed second with a score of 165.50 sandwiched in between two Eau Claire divers, while Logan McLaughlin posted a first place time of 58.5 seconds in the 100 butterfly and second place time of 2 minutes, 10.23 seconds in the 200 individual medley. In the 50 freestyle, John Augustin was second in 23.45 seconds, Seth Larsen was fifth in 24.55 and Derick Graves took sixth in 27.29.
Junior Nick Longsdorf's unassisted goal with 2 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in regulation gave the Wildcat hockey team a 4-4 tie in a nonconference game at Chisago Lakes Saturday, Dec. 2. Two nights earlier the Cats dropped a 6-1 decision to defending state champion Hudson in the Big Rivers Conference opener for both teams at Wildcat Centre.
The St. Croix Valley Fusion girls hockey team continued to pile up goals last week while winning all three games at its Thanksgiving tournament in Baldwin to improve to 4-0 on the season. The Fusion blanked the St. Paul Blades (Highland Park co-op) 8-0 in the tourney opener Wednesday, Nov. 22 and topped Rochester Lourdes, 7-5, Friday, Nov. 24 before working overtime to pull out a 6-5 win over the Western Wisconsin Stars (Somerset/New Richmond/Osceola) Saturday, Nov. 25.
Carly Moran and Madi Nolan scored two goals apiece and 14 different Falcons recorded at least one point as the fourth-ranked UW-River Falls women's hockey team rolled to a 10-1 victory over St. Olaf Tuesday, Nov. 21, at Hunt Arena. UWRF fell behind 1-0 before scoring five straight goals in the first period to take control. Freshman Callie Hoff scored the only goal of the second period to make it a 6-1 game before Amy Auran, Kora Torkelson, Nolan and Moran added third period goals to make the final 10-1.
When you talk about who is back for the River Falls boys basketball team this season, it's nice to have reigning Big Rivers Conference Player of the Year Jaxon Knotek at the top of the list. Knotek did it all for the Wildcats last season, leading the team in scoring (19.1) and rebounding (5.7) while finishing second in blocked shots and assists and third in steals. He played every position from guard to post while accounting for over one-third of the Wildcat offense.
The tenth-ranked UW-River Falls men's basketball team kicked off its five game homestand with a pair of victories last week, rolling past UW-Superior, 98-68, Tuesday, Nov. 21, and holding off Hamline University, 68-60, Saturday, Nov. 25. After hosting Carthage College Tuesday, Nov. 28, the Falcons will face Carleton College Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. and the University of St. Thomas Saturday, Dec. 9, before hitting the road for the first time in nearly a month.