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MCDONALD'S GAME OF THE WEEK (Boys Basketball): Potosi 64, River Ridge 63 (3 OT)
Kruser's free throw lifts Chieftains to 3 overtime victory, keeps Potosi in SRW title chase
Potosi senior Ryan Kruser is swarmed by his teammates after sinking the game-winning free throw in triple overtime against River Ridge. Kruser’s free throw with no time on the clock, gave the Chieftains a 64–63 win over the league-leading Timberwolves, and kept Potosi’s hopes of sharing the Six Rivers West conference title alive. - photo by A.J. Gates

BOYS BASKETBALL: Potosi 64, River Ridge 63, 3 OT

PATCH GROVE — PATCH GROVE – Three days after clinching a share of the program’s first conference title since 2006, the River Ridge boys basketball team ran up against a very motivated Potosi squad that still had a stake in the Six Rivers West.

Following a 47-38 road win over Highland last Tuesday night, coach Tom Neises and his River Ridge Timberwolves improved to 10-0 in league play, holding a two-game lead over the Chieftains with two games to play.

Coach Mike Uppena and his senior dominated squad traveled to Patch Grove last Friday night, where they were looking to keep their conference championship hopes alive, and hand River Ridge their first conference loss of the season.

It took a full 32 minutes of regulation, and then three more overtimes before Potosi prevailed with a 64-63 victory behind a gutty performance from senior guard Ryan Kruser.

It was Kruser who knocked down the game-winning free throw with no time remaining in the third overtime, lifting Potosi to 8-2 in league play with two games remaining.

In order to secure a share of the conference title, the Chieftains now need wins over Shullsburg (7-3) and Belmont (3-7), along with a River Ridge loss to the Miners.

River Ridge can simply claim the title for themselves with a win over visiting Shullsburg next Thursday night.

Friday night’s game had all the fireworks of a thrilling contest between two evenly matched teams playing in front of a playoff-type crowd.

River Ridge jumped out to a 15-4 lead with 7:41 showing on the clock before Potosi then turned up the defensive pressure, which led to a 15-0 Chieftain run and a 19-15 lead with just 1:14 to play in the half.

It was the Chieftains holding onto a 19-17 halftime lead, but River Ridge senior Cole Crubel came out in the second half like a man possessed.

Following back-to-back 3-pointers, Crubel put the Timberwolves up, 23-19, following a two-point basket, and River Ridge eventually held their largest lead of the half at 38-27 with 7:54 to play in regulation.

Forced to crank up their defense yet again, Potosi put together a 15-7 scoring run that pulled them to within 45-42 on a Nick Edge 3-pointer with 2:03 showing on the clock.

A basket by Ryan Kruser then pulled Potosi to within 45-44 with 1:14 to play, before Crubel made it 47-44 with a pair of free throws.

With just nine seconds remaining in regulation, and his team trailing 47-44, Edge was fouled on a 3-point attempt, sending him to the free throw line to shoot three.

The first attempt rolled around the rim four times before falling in, and the second went straight down. River Ridge called a time out to ice Edge, but the Potosi senior stepped up and tied the game by making the third.

With one last desperation attempt to win the game, Crubel missed an off-balance jumper from the left baseline at the buzzer, sending the two teams into overtime.

In the first overtime, Kruser gave Potosi a 49-47 lead by making two free throws, while Crubel answered on the other end with two free throws of his own to tie it back up at 49-49.

Kruser then made a post-up basket, which was followed by a miss on River Ridge’s end with just under two minutes to play.

Missing their chance to take a two-possession lead, Potosi gave the ball back to River Ridge, where Crubel evened the score at 51-51 with a steal and lay up.

With 47.9 seconds to play, and the two teams knotted at 51-51, Edge was fouled and sent to the line, where he made both attempts to put Potosi up 53-51.

River Ridge senior Brayan Barrita then tied it back up at 53-53 with 21 seconds to play, when he made two critical free throws at the other end.

Following a timeout, Potosi coach Mike Uppena drew up a screen and roll for Edge, who on his way to the basket was fouled and sent to the line with 4.3 seconds to play.

Edge missed both attempts, but on the second miss the ball was knocked out of bounds by River Ridge, giving the Chieftains one last shot with 2.7 seconds to play. A 3-pointer by Edge fell short, sending the game into a second overtime.

Cole Crubel started things off in the second overtime with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving River Ridge a 56-53 advantage.

Kruser followed with an offensive put back, then a steals and lay up to give Potosi a 57-56 lead.

River Ridge’s Archie Cooley was sent to the line with 2:24 to play in the second overtime, and the senior knocked down one-of-two free throws to tie the score at 57-57.

Barrita then got a big steal for River Ridge, which the Timberwolves could not convert into points, and followed with Kruser being sent to the line with 1:10 to play in the overtime session.

Kruser made one-of-two attempts for a one-point Potosi lead, and the Chieftains then got a steal on the other end, followed by a foul that sent Kruser back to the line. The Potosi senior knocked down one-of-two attempts, giving Potosi a 59-57 lead with 24.8 seconds showing on the clock.

With time ticking away and the ball in Crubel’s hands, the senior gave up the ball to Hamilton, who launched a 3-pointer from the right baseline.

Though Hamilton’s shot was well short, the offensive rebound was gathered by teammate David Nies, who scored the put back just before the final buzzer to send the game into a third overtime.

Kruser started off the scoring in the third overtime with two made free throws, which was then followed by two made free throws by Hamilton.

Potosi turned the ball over on their next possession, which River Ridge used to get a bucket from Crubel, and give the Timberwolves a 63-61 lead with just under three minutest to play in the extra session.

Kruser evened the score at 63-63 with another steal and lay up with 1:55 showing on the clock, before the two teams then traded misses.

River Ridge took possession with exactly one minute to play and the two teams knotted at 63-63.

Edge then came up with a huge steal with 39 seconds to play and the Chieftains took a time out with 21.5 to play.

  A pass in the lane by Potosi resulted in a jump ball, giving possession back to River Ridge with only four seconds remaining, and the entire length of the court to go.

Under pressure from Ben Udelhofen, Crubel lost the handle on the ball, which was quickly scooped up by Kruser. In an attempt to get off a last-second shot, Kruser was fouled as the buzzer sounded, sending him to the line with no time remaining on the clock.

Following a timeout by River Ridge coach Tom Neises, Kruser calmly drained the first free throw and was then mobbed by his teammates.

Kruser continually came up huge for the Chieftains down the stretch, after scoring just one point in the first half, and finishing with a team-high 22, 13 of which came in the three overtimes.

On the night, Kruser was 7-of-18 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line. He also came away with a team-high 11 rebounds and seven steals to go along with three assists.

Edge chipped in 17 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the floor and 8-of-11 from the line, while Ben Udelhofen had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.

As a team, Potosi made 19-of-57 (33%) shot attempts, including 3-of-22 (14%) from 3-point range. They were 23-of-34 (68%) from the free throw line.

“I guess when you look at it, there were a lot of things that were at stake,” said coach Uppena of Friday night’s game. “But, I never talked about that with the boys. We never discussed any of that, honestly.”

“These guys have bought into the theory that what we need to focus on is what we’re doing on the floor. And, they’ve bought into what we need to do at practice,” Uppena added.

The Timberwolves made 22-of-64 (34%) shot attempts in the loss, including 5-of-19 (26%) from 3-point range. They were 14-of-18 (78%) from the free throw line and committed 14 turnovers to Potosi’s 14.

 Crubel concluded the game with a team-high 27 points on 9-of-26 shooting from the field and 5-of-5 from the line. David Nies chipped in 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while Barrita added 10 points and two steals.

“This was a very difficult loss for us,” said coach Tom Neises. “It was a very good high school basketball game between two teams that fought very hard.”

“When you play in a high-stakes game, you can either experience great reward or great disappointment. Unfortunately, it was a great disappointment for us,” Neises added.

“Credit Potosi, this was their eighth win in a row, and they have turned their season around. That’s credit to Mike and his team. In reality, if someone told me before the season that we would split with Potosi, I would have taken it,” Neises added. 

Potosi 64, River Ridge 63 (3OT)
(from Friday, Feb. 14, at Patch Grove)
Potosi.............19 28 6 6 5 - 64
River Ridge...17 30 6 6 4 - 63
Potosi - Ben Udelhofen 11, Gunnar Stappert 4, Nelson Bauer 2, Ryan Kruser 22, Ty Dressler 4, Nick Edge 17, Austin Uppena 4. Totals – 19-57, 23-34 64.
River Ridge - Archie Cooley 3, Owen Hamilton 6, Lance Nichols 2, Brayan Barrita 10, Logan Drone 4, Cole Crubel 27, David Nies 11. Totals – 22-64, 14-18 63.
3-point goals - P: (3-22) Stappert 1, Edge 1, Uppena 1; RR: (5-19) Barrita 1, Crubel 4. Team fouls - P 17, RR 26. Fouled out - Uppena (P), Nichols (RR), Drone (RR).