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Hudson senior Kait Haag (43) hits a jumper over a Superior defender for two of her game-high 20 points in the Raiders' 61-53 season-opening loss to the Spartans Friday afternoon at the high school gym. The Raiders cut the Spartans' 16-point lead to six late in the game but came up just short of the win. Bob Burrows photo

Girls Basketball: Raiders' rally falls short

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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Raider girls' basketball team battled back from a 16-point deficit to cut Superior's lead to six with under a minute remaining, but the comeback effort came up just short and the Spartans escaped with a 61-53 victory in the season opener for both teams Friday afternoon at the high school.

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Superior led 45-29 at the end of the third quarter before the Raiders outscored the Spartans 24-16 in the final eight minutes. Hudson pulled to within six, 59-53, on a drive by junior Morgan Karras with 35.7 seconds remaining, but that was the last Raider basket of the game and the Spartans hit two free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

"I was proud of their effort in the second half," Raider coach Beth Graskewicz said about her team. "We started out slow and couldn't catch them in the second half. We came to within six points but Superior continued to keep the lead."

Superior led 11-5 at the end of the first quarter and 29-17 at the half before extending its lead to 45-29 at the end of three. Back-to-back baskets by freshman Kindra Witthus to start the fourth quarter made it a 45-33 game, and a put-back and free throw from senior Kait Haag cut the Spartans' lead to nine, 50-41, with 5:20 to play.

Hudson forced a turnover that resulted in a lay-up by Karras to make it a seven-point game, 50-43, before the Spartans extended their lead to 56-47, with 3:26 remaining.

Two free throws by sophomore Maddie Drewiske pulled the Raiders back to within seven, 58-51, with 57.3 seconds left, and after Superior's Samantha DeMeyer hit one of two free throws, Karras scored the final Raider points of the game.

Graskewicz said the Raiders dug themselves too deep a hole to climb out of in the second half.

"Our defense was not where we want it to be," she said. "We missed a lot of assignments. We need to work on seeing both man and ball. With only three players who got quality minutes last year, that's expected. We will work hard on defense this week and be ready for (Eau Claire) Memorial on Friday."

Haag led all scorers with 20 points while Karras finished with 12 and Witthus added 10. Drewiske added six points in the loss and senior Maddie Ryan hit a big three-pointer to help fuel the Raiders' comeback effort in the fourth quarter while junior Jamie Lindstrom finished with two points.

Hudson was 16-of-19 from the free throw line compared to 14-of-27 for Superior. Mackenzie Newman and Bettye Jo Nelson each scored 17 points for the Spartans.

Graskewicz said she's looking forward to improvement from the Raiders, beginning Friday night in the Big Rivers Conference opener at Eau Claire Memorial.

"This is a team who practices hard and these girls are so coachable," she said. "They are continuing to learn their roles and I think with each week you will see a team that just keeps getting better."

Following Friday night's (Dec. 4) game in Eau Claire, the Raiders will visit Osceola for a nonconference game Saturday, Dec. 5 before resuming conference play Friday, Dec. 11, at Menomonie. The team's next home game is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 15, against Red Wing, Minn.

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