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Raider girls post big BRC win

Hudson junior Shayla Wallin (32) looks for room to drive the baseline in the second half of the Raider girls' basketball team's 64-34 victory over Tartan last Tuesday at the high school. Wallin was one of five players in double figures in scoring with 14 points. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)

Last year's two Big Rivers Conference meetings between the Hudson and Eau Claire North girls' basketball teams were decided by one point, so why should this year's first meeting be any different?

Eau Claire North got off one final shot at the buzzer, but the ball stuck between the rim and the backboard as time expired to give Hudson a 49-48 victory Monday night at the high school gym.

The game was originally scheduled for last Friday, Dec. 16 in Hudson but was postponed due to the weather. The three-day delay only added to the drama.

"We just match up so well with Eau Claire North, and I think that's why these games become instant classics when we play," Raider coach Joe Behnke said. "Its truly who has the ball last."

The Raiders led by eight, 28-20, at the break, but Behnke said the margin could have been even more.

"I thought we came out very focused and executed on offense very well," he said. "We got up early, as our size down low was just too much for them to handle. They switched to a two-three zone and we kept getting good look after good look and they wouldn't go down, or this game could have easily been 20 at the half."

The Huskies cut into the Raider lead at the start of the second half and took their first lead with about three minutes to go, but the Raiders never panicked, regaining the lead and coming up with enough defensive stops to improve to 3-0 in the BRC, 5-2 overall.

"Give Eau Claire North credit as their defensive switch-up and our inability to make shots from the outside kept them in the game," Behnke said. "I liked our poise down the stretch though. It was our Youth Night as well, and the future Raiders made that gym as loud as I have ever heard down the stretch of that game. Incredible atmosphere tonight."

Shayla Wallin led the Raiders with 15 points and Kylee Christiansen recorded 12 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots while Lexi Jonas hit Hudson's only 3-pointers of the game and finished with 11 points.

Behnke said the Raiders learned a lot about themselves in the win.

"We have a lot of situational takeaways from this game to work on as our season moves on, but this is a huge early season conference win for us at home," he said. "I am so excited for all the youth kids tonight as they got to see a really exciting game. I'm proud of the girls for digging in and finding a way."

The victory came after what Behnke called the Raiders' best game of the year in a 64-34 nonconference win over Tartan last Tuesday at home.

Five different Raiders scored in double digits and all 15 saw playing time as Hudson jumped out to a 37-17 halftime lead and never looked back.

"Offensively, the ball snapped around and our movement and spacing was great," Behnke said. "We were able to stymie them defensively as well, and the girls were crisp at getting in and out of numerous defenses, and forced turnovers led to some easy transition points for us. Fun paced game with so many girls contributing."

Jonas paced the attack with 15 points and four assists while Wallin had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Christiansen, Ashley Juza and Kassi Jenkins finished with 10 points each. Jenkins also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds while Juza had six boards and three blocked shots.

Nine different Raiders recorded at least one steal, with Ty Huber leading the way with three.

The Raiders will host Hastings, Minn., at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, before competing in a holiday tournament in Marshfield Dec. 28-29. They will play Marshfield at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28 and face Wausau West at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29.

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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