Boy cagers start powerfully
The Raider boys basketball team proved that it's ready to defend its Big Rivers Conference title.
They opened the new season with two victories last week, defeating River Falls 63-45 at home on Tuesday before traveling to Eau Claire North on Friday, where they collared the Huskies 54-28.
The defeat of the rival River Falls squad is perhaps the best reason to be optimistic about the season ahead since the Wildcats also were a preseason favorite to win the 2004-05 conference crown. But walloping the Huskies in their Dog House (the nickname for the Eau Claire North gym) either is no small accomplishment.
"It's one game, but it was one we really felt was important for us to get on our home floor," Hudson coach Tim Scharfenberg said of the victory over River Falls.
It was a tight contest until the fourth quarter, when the Raiders opened up a double-digit margin on the strengthen of Jay Langdon's drives to the basket, coupled with a pair of field goals each from Matt Miller and Steve McCarney.
Langdon scored 10 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Five of them came from the free-throw line after he was fouled driving to the hoop.
"He had a tremendous game. To score 30 (points) is great offensive production, but he does so much more," Scharfenberg said. "His defense is outstanding. He's hustling on the floor. He's on the floor for loose balls. He had a great game - very well rounded."
The Wildcats' Jake Voeltz got all of his team-high 15 points in the first half.
Scharfenberg said he talked with his players about the need to defend Voeltz at half time, and they responded. Six-foot-four junior Steve McCarney, in particular, came off the bench to contain River Falls' big man the rest of the way.
The Hudson coach said it surprised even him when his team pulled away from the Wildcats midway through the fourth quarter.
"I credit our defense," he said. "I thought our overall team defense was the difference in the fourth quarter."
The large and enthusiastic crowd that turned out to cheer the hometown team also helped, the coach said.
The only bad news from the evening is that Jack Page broke a bone in his hand and will miss six weeks of action. The senior swingman finished the game despite fracturing the hand apparently sometime in the first quarter.
"I honestly don't know. He doesn't seem to really remember that distinctly," Scharfenberg said when asked how Page got hurt.
Noting that Page isn't afraid to dive for loose balls, he added with a chuckle, "He's one of those guys who plays with reckless abandon. He really couldn't pinpoint the exact time."
Page underwent surgery to have the broken bone stabilized with a pin and a screw on Tuesday.
Scharfenberg said his hustle would be missed.
"You hope it will make us stronger in the end. It means opportunities for a couple of other players to step up and fill the void," he said, naming Nathan Zuehl as the player who will start in Page's place. Michael Zuehl and Jake Jenson also will get increased playing time in Page's absence, he said.
Eau Claire North gave the Hudson boys a battle until the third quarter.
The Raiders led by just one point at half time, but turned up the pressure on the Huskies in the third quarter.
"We did more trapping. That was more effective for us in creating turnovers and we got some easy baskets that way," Scharfenberg said. The Huskies had succeeded in slowing the pace of the game in the first half.
Senior point guard Matt Miller led Hudson in scoring with 16 points against North. Jay Langdon added 13 and center Matt Whitemarsh had his most productive game as a varsity player with 10 points.
The Raiders scored 34 points in the second half while holding North to nine points.
The boys take on Rice Lake at home Friday night in another important Big Rivers Conference battle. Red Wing, Minn., comes to town for a non-conference game Tuesday night, Dec. 21.