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Basketball: Hudson boys split in BRC play

Hudson junior Alex Herink hits a shot between two River Falls' defenders in the second half of the Raiders' 52-43 overtime loss to the Wildcats last Friday at the high school gym. Photo by Bob Burrows

After posting their third straight Big Rivers Conference victory with a 52-40 win at Chippewa Falls last Tuesday, the Raider boys' basketball team squandered a 13-point halftime lead and fell to River Falls, 52-43, Friday in Hudson.

The split leaves the Raiders with a final regular season record of 8-14 overall, 5-7 in BRC play, heading into this Friday night's (Feb. 22) WIAA regional semifinal in Marshfield. The Raiders, the No. 6 seed in the bracket, face the third-seeded Tigers (12-10) at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to take on either No. 2 D.C. Everest (15-7) or No. 7 Wausau East (6-14) Saturday night at the home of the higher seed.

Last Friday night, Feb. 15, in the regular season finale against River Falls, the Raiders held the Wildcats to just two first half field goals while building a 17-4 halftime lead. River Falls stormed back to take a late fourth quarter lead, and the Raiders forced overtime on a pair of Mathew Sparstad free throws. But the Cats hit 15-of-18 free throws in the extra session on their way to outscoring Hudson 17-8 to escape with the victory.

Raider coach Jason Swavely said the game was a tale of two halves. After jumping out to a 13-2 first quarter lead and taking a 17-4 advantage into the break, the Raiders committed 17 second half turnovers that allowed River Falls to get back into the game.

"We lost our poise in the second half and allowed River Falls to gain momentum from the free throw line with no time elapsing off the clock," Swavely said. "We were playing not to lose rather than playing to win. We made a lot of excellent plays in the game, but in the end our team's inability to make good decisions with the ball was the deciding factor."

River Falls made 28-of-33 free throws in the game compared to 8-of-13 for Hudson.

After trimming the Raider lead to 27-21 at the end of the third quarter, River Falls took its first lead of the game, 31-30, on a Luke Murphy three-point play with 5:28 remaining in regulation.

River Falls led by three, 33-30, before Alex Herink hit a free throw, then made a steal that led to an Alex Newell basket to tie the score with 1:45 left.

The Wildcats took a two-point lead with one minute remaining before Sparstad's two free throws tied the score, 35-35, with 50 seconds left. Neither team could convert in the closing seconds, and the game went to overtime, where a Brad Freeborn drive gave the Wildcats the lead for good. It was the only River Falls' field goal of the extra session.

Herink led the Raiders with 21 points while Sparstad finished with eight. Newell and Dan Kelly each scored five points while Stef Smith and Jordan Belanger had two each.

Three nights earlier in Chippewa Falls, the Raiders snapped a 15-15 first quarter tie by outscoring the Cardinals 13-6 in the second quarter and never trailed on their way to a 52-40 victory.

Belanger led three Raiders in double figures with 14 points while Sparstad scored 13 and Herink had 11. Miles Lewis contributed four points in the victory and Dan Kelly had three while Smith, Joe Kelly and Ben Koch scored two points each.

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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