MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Jan. 20–27)
BOYS BASKETBALL: River Ridge 53, No. 8 Fennimore 52
FENNIMORE – Coach Tom Neises and his River Ridge Timberwolves traveled to Fennimore last Tuesday night hoping to preserve their undefeated season record, which they knew wasn’t going to be an easy task.
Thanks to an all-around exceptional performance from senior Lance Nichols, a defensive demonstration from Logan Drone, and some last-second heroics from Will Cooley, the T-Wolves departed Fennimore with a 53–52 non-conference victory and an overall record of 13–0.
The Golden Eagles, who were playing in only their second game since going into quarantine late in December, came into Tuesday night’s contest with an overall record of 6–2 and ranked 8th in the last Division 4 coaches poll. They are led by 6’9” senior Adam Larson, who averages 22 points per game and has already committed to Southeast Missouri State.
Containing Larson on Tuesday night was a job assigned to junior forward Logan Drone, who would need help from his teammates when the situation allowed. Larson was limited to a team-high 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range. He also pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked one shot, while also going 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
“Logan did a good job on Adam Larson, and was given good help,” coach Neises said of his junior forward.
While Fennimore’s big man was somewhat contained, it was River Ridge’s big mane who had perhaps his biggest game of the season. Lance Nichols, a 6’6” senior, led River Ridge with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including 2-of-7 from downtown. He also pulled down four rebounds, dished out two assists and came up with five blocked shots in the win.
“Lance Nichols might have played his best all-around game,” said coach Neises.
Right behind Nichols was sophomore Braden Crubel, who finished with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, including 2-of-7 from downtown. Crubel also had five rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Logan Drone chipped in nine points and a team-high four assists, while David Nies added eight points and five rebounds.
While Nichols and Crubel carried the team for most of the contest, it was junior Will Cooley who saved the day with a late rebound and put back, as well as the game-winning free throw.
Trailing 52º50 with 37 seconds to play, Crubel put up a shot in the lane, that went off the rim on the other side and was rebounded by Cooley. Cooley put the ball up off the glass and into the basket while being fouled with 32.2 seconds to play. He calmly knocked down the free throw to give River Ridge a 53–52 lead.
Fennimore called timeout to draw up one final play, but as time ran down, junior Max Kenney was forced to put up a running one hander in the lane with two seconds left that missed the mark as the T'Wolves escaped with the win.
On the night, the Timberwolves made 19-of-46 (41%) total shot attempts, including 4-of-22 (18%) from 3-point range. They were 9-of-16 (56%) from the free throw line, committed just eight turnovers, and were out-rebounded, 31–21.
The Timberwolves faced another stiff challenge the following Saturday when they traveled to Wauzeka/Steuben to take on the state’s division 5 fifth-ranked Hornets.
Though it took an overtime session, the T-Wolves remained perfect on the season with a 65-59 overtime victory.
In a truly back-and-forth contest, a 3-pointer by River Ridge’s Ian Adrian knotted the score at 54-54 with eight seconds to play, as the Timberwolves held on to send Saturday’s game into overtime.
In the extra session, coach Neises’ squad outscored Wauzeka-Steuben, 11-5, where Crubel, Nichols and Drone combined to make 7-of-8 clutch free throws down the stretch.
A balanced offensive attack by the Timberwolves saw Crubel, Nichols and David Nies each score 13 points, while Adrian was right behind with 12. Nies also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, while Nichols and Drone each had six. Nies and Drone also dished out a team-high four assists each, while Nichols added two blocked shots to his stat line.
Prior to Saturday’s win at Wauzeka, the Timberwolves picked up a 56–41 non-conference victory over host Pecatonica. The T-Wolves held a convincing lead of 33-6 at the half, and cruised to a victory in the second half, where coach Neises gave his bench most of the minutes.
Crubel led River Ridge with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field, including 4-of-9 from long range. He also pulled down a team-high seven rebounds to go along with four assists and five steals, which were also both team highs. Nies finished the game with 13 points and Nichols with 11.
River Ridge 53, Fennimore 52
(from Tuesday, Jan. 19 @ Fennimore)
River Ridge 20 33 — 53
Fennimore 28 24 — 52
River Ridge (13–0) — Logan Drone 9, Braden Crubel 13, Lance Nichols 17, Will Cooley 6, David Nies 8. Totals — 19-46 9-16 53.
Fennimore (6–3) — Adam Larson 14, Druw Fifrick 2, Brady Larson 6, Austin Horn 13, Max Kenney 6, Mason Adkins 11. Totals — 21-55 6-6 52.
3-point goals — RR: 4-22 (Crubel 2, Nichols 2), F: 4-14 (B. Larson 2, Horn 1, Adkins 1). Team fouls — RR: 5, F: 14. Fouled out — none.