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Big River leaders notch two more wins

The Hudson boys basketball team stayed atop the Big Rivers Conference standings with victories last week over Rice Lake and Menomonie.

Neither came easily.

Sophomore Michael Zuehl's three-pointer at the buzzer lifted the Raiders to a 66-63 win at Rice Lake Thursday night.

Saturday night's contest at Hudson also was deadlocked until the fourth quarter, when the Raiders rallied to defeat Menomonie 64-52.

The week ended with Hudson and River Falls still tied for first place in the conference standings, each with 9-1 records. The teams each have two conference games remaining.

The Raiders travel to Eau Claire Memorial (3-6) Friday night and host Chippewa Falls (0-10) Feb. 25. River Falls plays at Menomonie (5-3) tonight (Feb. 10) and hosts Memorial Feb. 17.

Hudson might not have to share the conference title if the Menomonie boys battle River Falls the way they did the Raiders for three quarters of Saturday night's game.

The Hudson and Menomonie boys played to a 15-15 tie in the first quarter. The Raiders gained a one-point advantage in the second quarter, but played to another draw with the Menomonie boys in the third quarter.

The Raiders were able to open up a lead in the fourth quarter by turning up the intensity on their full-court press and knocking down a string of shots.

All five starters scored as the Raiders rang up 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Jay Langdon scored eight of his game-high 21 points in the period. Matt Miller contributed a three-pointer and two free throws. He finished the game with three treys and 15 points.

"I thought we did a nice job in finishing that game," said Hudson coach Tim Scharfenberg. "Our defense was outstanding. We did a nice job of moving the basketball, working for good shots. (We) rebounded very well. (We) put together a nice fourth quarter."

Scharfenberg added: "It was a nice team effort. Many different players stepped up and made big plays."

Jack Page's block of a three-point attempt late in the game brought a roar from the crowd and appeared to signal that the contest had been decided.

Langdon held Cole Kraft, Menomonie's outstanding junior guard, to 10 points for the game.

Scharfenberg said the Raiders' strategy late in the game was to deny Kraft the ball on the inbound pass.

"We tried to make him have to really work to get the ball, and then pressured him up the court as well," he said.

Last-second heroics at Rice Lake

The Raiders got out to a 21-9 first-quarter lead at Rice Lake Thursday night. The Warriors whittled it away in the middle two quarters, however, and tied the score at 49 entering the fourth quarter.

Scharfenberg said his team felt the effect of missing three players that have been part of the playing rotation.

Senior forward Brady O'Keefe won't participate in any remaining games, Scharfenberg said, and referred the Star-Observer to Athletic Director Larry Ofstedal for the reason. Ofstedal said the state's student privacy law prevented him from commenting on the reason for O'Keefe's departure from the team.

Junior guard/forward Jake Jenson was in Milwaukee for the funeral of his grandfather, and senior center Matt Whitemarsh was ill.

"We got off to a great start in the game. Unfortunately, we could not quite sustain that level of play," Scharfenberg said. "We were really depleted depth-wise, and that certainly took its toll. Our guys really gutted it out and had just a real courageous performance."

After a back-and-forth fourth period, Rice Lake hit a three-pointer to tie the score with eight seconds remaining.

On Hudson's final possession, Miller got the ball in the frontcourt, but drew two defenders, and passed the ball to Michael Zuehl for the open three-pointer as time ran out.

"It was a big shot," Scharfenberg said, adding, "It was a very unselfish play on Matt's part not to force something, and give it up to the open teammate."

Jack Page, playing with a brace on his right hand to protect it from being re-injured, scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished the game with a season-high 15 points. He was the team's leading rebounder with 14.

Miller scored a game-high 18 points. Michael Zuehl contributed 12 points.

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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