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Basketball: Wildcat boys back in form

Falling behind 16-3 on the road in the Big Rivers Conference and being outscored by seven in the final 50 seconds is usually not a recipe for success. But when you outscore your opponent 40-16 in the middle of the game that can be the difference.

That's what the Wildcat boys basketball team did at Eau Claire Memorial Friday, Feb. 9, locking down the Old Abes over a span of 21 minutes and getting some big shots from freshman Zac Johnson to earn a 46-42 victory and move into sole possession of second place in the BRC standings.

"This speaks to the type of basketball we played through a 21-minute span in the late first half into the majority of the second half," Wildcat coach Zac Campbell said. "Our defense was our driving force to keeping the game close through a stretch of seeing a lot of shots off point."

After falling behind 16-3 to start the game the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run, capped by a Johnson three-pointer by. Memorial held an 18-14 lead at the break and widened the gap to seven early in the second half but a three-pointer by Jaxon Knotek gave the Cats a one-point lead and Johnson hit three three-pointers in the final six minutes to give the Cats the win. Johnson finished with a game-high 16 points and five rebounds.

River Falls shot just 33 percent from the floor but registered 12 assists on their 16 field goals and won the turnover battle, 17-7.

"Adam Feyereisen and Ryan Spafford made some great reads out of the middle of the zone in the second half to give open looks to shooters," Campbell noted. "Adam and Ryan combined for eight assists and one turnover. Zac Johnson was the beneficiary of good ball movement and hit some timely threes to spread the lead out."

Knotek finished with 12 points and three steals in the win while Feyereisen had six points and five assists.

The Wildcats defense, meanwhile, held Eau Claire Memorial's top two scorers to a combined 12 points.

Three nights earlier Knotek went off for 34 points, Johnson had 17 and Spafford scored 10 in a 93-39 nonconference victory at Baldwin-Woodville.

"Taking nothing away from Baldwin-Woodville as they are a program who is rebuilding and will run out solid teams in the coming years, but playing the likes of Eau Claire Memorial, Hudson, and St. Paul city schools really makes you learn to play at a faster pace," Campbell said. "A credit to our boys; they were focused on their continued growth and playing basketball to our style. Knocking down a few shots early and getting a couple layups through jumps in the back court allowed the boys to play with a high level of confidence."

The Cats can wrap up second place with a win at home over Chippewa Falls this Thursday, Feb. 15. They also have an outside shot of sharing the conference title depending on how Eau Claire North does in its final two games.

After hosting Chippewa Falls the Wildcats will host Ashland in a nonconference game Saturday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m.

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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