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MCDONALD'S GAME OF THE WEEK (Boys Basketball): River Ridge 63, Shullsburg 56
Timberwolves maintain top spot in SRW with win at Shullsburg
Senior Brayan Barrita scored six points and had three rebounds to help the Timberwolves defeat host Shullsburg in Monday night's SRW showdown.

BOYS BASKETBALL: River Ridge 63, Shullsburg 56

SHULLSBURG — A 63-56 victory over the host Miners this past Monday night, put the River Ridge varsity boys basketball team in a position they haven’t been in for 14 years.

Monday night’s victory was the tenth straight for the River Ridge boys (10-2), who remain undefeated atop the Six Rivers West conference standings at the midway point in the regular season.

Neises and his Timberwolves improved to 6-0 in league play and have a game-and-a-half lead over the second-place Miners (5-2), and a two-game lead over Potosi (4-2) in third place.

The Timberwolves are in prime position to win a boys' basketball conference title, something that hasn’t been done at River Ridge since 2006.

Even with a nice cushion, coach Neises isn’t about to relax, as they begin the second half of the conference schedule Thursday night against Belmont.

“We’ve got a little cushion, but we’re not relaxing,” said coach Neises. “We just want to keep improving. Our guys play hard. We are not perfect by any means. We still have room to grow, but our effort is outstanding. They play with a lot of care and a lot of want to."

A great start to Monday night’s game gave the visiting Timberwolves a huge lift, as they jumped out to an early 10-0 lead over the Miners, who had to be a little shell shocked.

“I give the guys a lot of credit," said Nieses. "They’re in the middle of finals, and to be able to have finals, get on a bus for an hour and a half, and to hit the floor and start the game that well is a testament to the young men that I’m fortunate enough to coach.

“I don’t think you ever expect to start a game out 10-0, and especially down there against a good team you don’t expect it, but that certainly did give us a boost, and a boost in confidence."

With six minutes to play in the first half, River Ridge took their largest lead of the opening session on a 3-pointer, making the score 24-12.

The Timberwolves hung on to hold a halftime advantage of 32-21, ending the half on an old-fashioned three-point play by sophomore Owen Hamilton.

Shullsburg came out of the locker room on fire, using a 15-3 scoring run to take a 36-35 lead seven-and-a-half minutes into the second half.

“We got a nice lead and then went through one of our little lulls defensively, and made a few mistakes defensively,” explained coach Neises. “When you make mistakes against teams that can shoot so well like Shullsburg can, that deficit doesn’t last long.”

River Ridge answered with a run of their own, outscoring the Miners, 14-4, in a span of five minutes to claim a 49-40 advantage with 5:12 to play in the game.

The Miners made one last  charge with an 8-0 scoring run to pull within 49-48 with just under three minutes to play, but the Timberwolves, who haven’t won at Shullsburg in six years, answered with a 14-8 run of their own to close out the game.

“That’s when our seniors just decided that we want to be a contender and we’d like to win a championship here this year,” said Neises. “Our seniors, Cole especially, just put us on their back.”

Crubel finished the game with a team-high 29 points, scoring 10 in the final two-and-a-half minutes. On the night he was 12-of-19 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

Chipping in seven points was junior Lance Nichols, while seniors Archie Cooley and Brayan Barrita each finished with six.

“Cole is as good as anyone I’ve ever coached, but we had other guys step up," said Nieses. "Will (Esser) scored, Logan (Drone)  scored, we’re starting to get a little bit out of Owen Hamilton, Brayan Barrita had a big steal and a couple of big threes, and Archie was just tenacious on defense in the second half. This is a great team win for us.”

As a team, the Timberwolves made 23-of-52 (44%) shot attempts, including 6-of-19 (31.5%) from 3-point range. They were 11-of-14 (78.5%) from the free throw line, committed just five turnovers and came away with eight steals.

Thursday night the Timberwolves kick off the second half of the conference schedule by hosting Belmont (2-5, 3-8), then will travel to Benton (3-3, 7-6) next Tuesday night