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MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U GAME OF THE WEEK (Boys Basketball): River Ridge 58, Southwestern 51
Second-half surge propels Timberwolves to non-conference win
Braden Crubel
River Ridge senior Braden Crubel exploded in the second half to score 20 points (after being held to just two in the first half) to lead the Timberwolves to a come-from-behind victory over Southwestern last Thursday night.

BOYS BASKETBALL: River Ridge 58, Southwestern 51

By A.J. Gates, Herald Independent / Tri-County Press

Second-half surge propels Timberwolves to non-conference win over Southwestern

PATCH GROVE – For coach Tom Neises and his River Ridge boys basketball team, intermission couldn’t have come soon enough last Thursday night against visiting Southwestern.

After trailing the Wildcats, 32-18 at the half, the host Timberwolves put together an exceptional second half, and outscored Southwestern 40-19 on their way to collecting a 58-51 non-conference victory.

With the win, coach Neises squad improved to 2-1 early in the season, while coach Clint Nemitz’ Wildcats dropped to 2-1 with their first loss of the season.

The two teams played nearly even during the first 11 minutes until River Ridge went cold and the Wildcats heated up.

With 6:50 to play in the opening half, Southwestern held a slim lead of 16-15 over the Timberwolves, but then went on a 16-3 scoring run to take a 14-point lead into the locker room.

With a little motivation from coach Neises during the intermission, the Timberwolves came out in the second half with more intensity and fire, which allowed them to get back into the game, and eventually take the lead.

Behind a smothering trapping defense and precision shooting from downtown, the Timberwolves used a 16-3 scoring run in the first six minutes of the second half to take a 36-35 lead on a Braden Crubel 3-pointer.

They weren’t done there either, extending their scoring run to 21-3 and taking a 41-35 lead on another Crubel 3-pointer with 10:55 to play in the contest.

“We made a couple of adjustments at halftime, and the kids really executed both adjustments well. All credit goes to them,” said coach Neises. “It’s the kids out on the floor that have to get things done, and I think they did it against a really good team.”

“We didn’t even play a bad first half, until it got away from us a little bit,” Neises added. “We got good shots, we just couldn’t make anything. They hurt us defensively a few times on drives and with offensive rebounds, but I thought we really cleaned some of those up in the second half.”

In the closing minutes, Southwestern got as close as four points at 55-51 with 1:40 to play before River Ridge closed out the contest with a 3-for-5 effort from the free throw line, while holding the Wildcats scoreless.

Coming back from a 14-point deficit at the half to secure a seven-point victory, gives coach Neises hope that this victory will give his relatively young squad some confidence to build on going into the rest of the season.

“Other than Braden (Crubel) and Aidan (Gage), we are young, and they went against a pretty experienced group there and did well. Maybe that’s a sign of some growth,” said coach Neises. “This should give us confidence, not arrogance. You need to be confident in anything that you do, and you’d like to hope that success creates success.”

After being held to just two points in the first half, Crubel exploded in the second to score 20 points and finish with a game-high 22. From the field the River Ridge senior was 8-of-21, including 4-of-11 from 3-point range. He also pulled down five rebounds and had seven of his team’s 19 steals.

Fellow senior Aiden Gage chipped in 13 points, while sophomore sharp shooter Carter Copsey added 11.

“Braden and Aiden both showed our younger guys what it’s like to be a senior, and what it’s like to step up and be the man,” said coach Neises. “And, I think them stepping up helped Carter Copsey get some looks.”

It all started on the defensive end for the Timberwolves, who created a number of turnovers during their run, that led to lay ups or open looks from the outside.

“I love how we played on the defensive end, and the biggest thing I thought we did was we communicated with each other, making adjustments,” Neises explained. “What we ask our guys to do on the defensive end sometimes can be very simple, but sometimes it can be very complex. Thursday night was one of those complex times.”

Offensively the Timberwolves made 22-of-58 (38%) shot attempts, including 8-of-23 (35%) from downtown. They were 6-of-13 (46%) from the charity stripe, committed 12 turnovers and came away with 19 steals.

Following this past Tuesday night’s home game against visiting Cassville, the Timberwolves will next travel to Benton on Thursday night.

River Ridge 58, Southwestern 51
(from Thursday, Dec. 1, at Patch Grove)
Southwestern.....32 19 - 51
River Ridge..........18 40 - 58
Southwestern (2–1) — Landon Rogers 5, Mason Kaiser 4, Justin Reuter 4, Jack Runde 2, Everett Droessler 7, Tyler Brotzman 20, Anthony Martin 9. Totals - 20-51, 3-6 51.
River Ridge (2–1) — Aidan Gage 13, Carter Copsey 11, Braden Crubel 22, Matthew Nies 5, Andrew Nies 2, Elliott Thornton 2, Luke Patterson 3. Totals - 22-58, 6-13 58.
3-point goals - SW: (8-25) Brotzman 5, Rogers 1, Dreossler 1, Martin 1; RR: (8-23) Gage 1, Copsey 2, Crubel 4, Patterson 1. Team fouls - SW 17, RR 7. Fouled out - Martin (SW).