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Wildcats give Raider girls a game

It could be that the Raiders looked past River Falls in anticipation of Friday night's match-up with the Eau Claire North Huskies, the defending Big Rivers Conference girls basketball champions.

Instead of rolling over the Wildcats like they've grown accustomed to, the Raiders had a fight on their hands when they visited River Falls last Friday (Dec. 3) and were happy to leave with a 48-45 win.

"You're not the only one that has said that to me," Hudson coach Dave Johnson said when a reporter told Johnson he expected a more one-sided game.

"They're not a bad team," Johnson said of the Wildcats. "They have fair size, they handle the ball pretty good, and they've got some kids that can shoot it."

And while the Raiders may have been guilty of looking ahead to the North game, the River Falls girls were zeroed in on knocking off Hudson for the first time in years.

"They were ready for us," Johnson said. "It was on their home floor. They had a big crowd. They had their band. It was a good atmosphere."

The Raiders led 15-11 at the end of the first quarter, 25-22 at halftime and 39-32 at the end of the third quarter. "They just wouldn't let us pull away from them," Johnson said.

He said he was pleased with his team's performance in spite of the narrow margin of victory.

"I thought we played a pretty good game (considering) the atmosphere and the situation," he said. "...It was kind of that rivalry thing."

He said he felt the Raiders were in control of the game the entire way, but had problems with turnovers and missed shots from close range that prevented them from widening their lead. The Wildcats resorted to rough play down the stretch in an attempt to pull out a win, he said.

Junior guard Megan Givens had a big game offensively, sinking seven of 10 shots from the floor and three of four free throws for 19 points. Junior center Katie Layman added nine points and senior Molly Fletcher had her biggest game of the young season with seven points.

Jessica Tewes grabbed 14 rebounds to control the boards for the Raiders.

Friday night's contest with the North Huskies at Hudson will set the stage for the rest of the season, Johnson said. If the Raiders win, they're well-positioned to make a run at the Big Rivers Conference title, which the Hudson girls last won in 2002.

North, Chippewa Falls and Hudson are the conference coaches' picks to battle for the 2004-05 conference crown.

"I like them coming here first," Johnson said of Friday night's game. "That will be a big game for us."

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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