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Update: Hudson boys win regional hoops title

The Raider boys basketball team shows off its WIAA Division 1 regional championship plaque after defeating Eau Claire Memorial 56-42 Saturday night in Hudson. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)1 / 3
Hudson senior Alex Herink gets above two Eau Claire memorial defenders for a basket in the second half of the Raiders’ 56-42 victory over the Old Abes in a WIAA Division 1 regional final last Saturday at the high school. Herink scored 21 points in the win to become the Raiders’ all-time scoring leader. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)2 / 3
Hudson senior Reid Schwechler hits a three-pointer to extend the Raider lead to 52-39 late in the fourth quarter of Hudson’s 56-42 victory over Eau Claire Memorial in a WIAA Division 1 regional final game last Saturday. Schwechler finished with nine points, all from beyond the arc. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)3 / 3

The Raider boys basketball team made its final home game a special one last Saturday night by defeating Big Rivers Conference rival Eau Claire Memorial, 56-42, to win a WIAA Division 1 regional title.

Hudson took care of Wausau West, 53-35, in the regional semifinal the previous night. The second-seeded Raiders, winners of six straight games going back to the regular season, will take a 14-9 record into this Thursday’s sectional semifinal against top-seeded Marshfield (18-6). Hudson dropped a 68-60 decision to the Tigers back on Dec. 27 at the Big Rivers Conference/Wisconsin Valley Conference Challenge in Menomonie.

“We are very excited for our players to be playing at their best at this point in the season,” Raider coach Jason Swavely said. “Our team has made steady progress all season long and has really taken it upon themselves together to elevate their level of play to its current level. We are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead and know that our guys will play to the best of their ability; everything else will take care of itself.”

The Raiders defeated Eau Claire Memorial for the third time this season to capture the regional title last Saturday. Senior Alex Herink scored 20 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to become the Raiders’ al-time leading scorer while sophomore Mathew Sparstad hit four three-pointers on his way to a 20-point night.

“As the adage goes, it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season,” Swavely said. “Looking back on our season I believe our victory in Eau Claire in January was a key pillar to our success as of late, and that victory along with our home victory vs Memorial in February allowed us to acquire the No. 2 seed overall. I think having the home court advantage in Saturday's game proved to be a key element in the victory.”

The Raiders used a 12-1 run at the end of third quarter run to erase a two-point deficit and claim the regional title.

Eau Claire Memorial led 32-29 with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter when Sparstad hit a three-pointer to tie the score. Herink then scored the next nine Raider points, capped by a layup and free throw, to give the Raiders a 41-33 lead after three.

Eau Claire Memorial got as close as four, 41-37, early in the fourth quarter but three-pointers by Sparstad, Herink and Reid Schwechler put Hudson up by double digits the rest of the way.

Schwechler finished with nine points, all from beyond the arc, as the Raiders hit eight three-pointers in the game.

“I felt like Eau Claire Memorial did a nice job of containing Alex in the first half, as he was only able to hit one of two free throws,” Swavely noted. “I felt like Matthew played some of his best basketball of the season in this game, particularly in the first half as he knocked down three perimeter three's to keep us in the game offensively.”

Jake Giordana added four points and Miles Lewis had a basket, and along with Jake Neiderhauser came up with strong contributions on both ends of the court.

“We had huge contributions from Schwech, Neids, and Lewis on both ends,” Swavely said. “As was the case the night before, I felt like our defense got better as the game went on.  We are going to need the steady contributions from many to continue on this roll.”

One night earlier the Raiders were able to wear down Wausau West in a game that was delayed over an our due to an accident on U.S. Highway 29 that prevented the Warriors from arriving on time.

Hudson led 9-5 after one and 23-16 at halftime before breaking the game open with a 17-11 third quarter run.

“After the delay I felt both teams came out sluggish and needed a quarter to get things rolling,” Swavely said. Obviously, the game plan from Wausau West’s perspective was to take Alex away on the interior and to try to chip at him as much as possible to frustrate him. I felt like he did a nice job of weathering the storm in the first quarter. In the last three quarters, we moved him more to the perimeter so he could attack the basket and were able to get a few more perimeter shots to fall to open up driving lanes for others.”

Herink led all scorers with 20 points and Neiderhauser added 11 while Sparstad finished with nine, Giordana and Garrett Hendricks scored five points each and Lewis had three.

“It was a tough, physical game and I really thought our players responded to the challenge that Wausau West brought to the game,” Swavely said.

Thursday night’s sectional semifinal against Marshfield is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off in Chippewa Falls. The winner will move on to face either Neenah or Stevens Point in the sectional championship game Saturday, March 8, at 1 p.m. at Wausau West High School.

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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