SHULLSBURG – River Ridge’s senior point guard Cody Witzig sank five of his six free throw attempts in the final 41.5 seconds to allow the visiting Timberwolves to hold off Shullsburg, 52-48, in a physical Six Rivers West boys’ basketball clash at SHS on Thursday, Dec. 6.
The loss was the first for the Miners (4-1 overall, 1-1 in SRW) this season and it dropped them out of the lead in the league standings behind Potosi (2-0) and Cassville (1-0).
“The scouting I have done has shown me that all of the teams in the conference are playing very hard and are well prepared. This is going to make for some exciting action in the Six Rivers,” said Shullsburg head coach Mark Lierman.
The Timberwolves (3-2, 1-1) came out playing hard from the opening tip on Thursday night, grabbing an early 8-2 lead on a pair of 3-pointers by senior guard Joel Mezera.
The Miners scored six unanswered points off turnovers to even the score at eight all, and then senior guard Pierce Russell sank a shot at the first quarter buzzer to put the hosts up 10-9.
Shullsburg built up an 18-14 advantage late in the first half until the ‘Wolves closed the stanza on a 6-0 run to take a 20-18 lead into the intermission.
“River Ridge is a good team that plays very physical. We did not adjust to the physical very well. They played with a lot more energy in the opening few minutes, which got us in an early deficit. We battled back to make a game of it, but if we had started the game with the intensity and sense of urgency that we finished with, we would have had a better opportunity for victory,” noted Lierman.
The ‘Wolves continued to maintain their slim lead over the Miners the entire second half. The hosts got as close as a point midway through the third quarter, but the ‘Wolves closed the quarter on a 7-4 run and opened the fourth frame with four straight free throws by Mezera to build up a 39-30 advantage.
Shullsburg kept whittling away at the deficit, and twice cut it down to two; but they would get no closer as Witzig hit five clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory for the ‘Wolves.
Mezera tossed in 20 points to lead all scorers, while Witzig finished with 16 for River Ridge.
Russell scored six of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter, while senior guard Collin Hauser added 10 of his 12 points in the same frame. The duo combined to go 10-for-13 at the foul line, and each hit a 3-pointer to bring the Miners back within a basket in the final two minutes of play.
Russell also tallied six rebounds and four steals, and Hauser added two steals.
Junior forward Connor Crotty chipped in with 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals for the Miners.
“We will try to keep working hard in practice and emphasize the importance of coming out ready to play and valuing every possession,” Lierman commented.
At Highland, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, senior center Reid Schwartz scored all six of his points in the decisive fourth quarter as the Miners used a 14-9 scoring advantage in the final frame to slip past Chad Paquette’s Cardinals, 37-32, in their Six Rivers West opener.
The teams were deadlocked at 23 all heading into the fourth quarter, but the Miners were able to come out on top as Schwartz hit all three of his shots and pulled down three key defensive rebounds down the stretch.
“It is always good to open the conference season with a victory, especially on the road,” said coach Mark Lierman.
Pierce Russell added a double-double with a team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds, and he also had four assists and a steal. Connor Crotty netted 11 points for the Miners.
Bailey Bodenstein paced the host Cardinals (1-5, 1-1) with 11 points.
Shullsburg heads to Belmont for a Six Rivers West game on Friday, Dec. 14. The Miners return to the court at Monticello on Saturday, Dec. 15, for a non-conference game, starting at 2:30 p.m., and they head to Lancaster on Monday, Dec. 17, for a non-conference make-up game from November.
River Ridge… 9 11 15 17 – 52
Shullsburg…. 10 8 12 18 – 48
River Ridge – Martin 2, Mezera 20, Witzig 16, Langmeier 2, White 8, Ertz 1, Breuer 3. Totals – 20 15-22 52.
Shullsburg – Pierce Russell 14, Collin Hauser 12, Connor Crotty 11, Kyle Hoppman 4, Nate Houtakker 4, Reid Schwartz 3. Totals – 16 18-27 48.
3-point goals – RR 3 (Mezera 3), S 2 (Hauser 1, Russell 1). Total fouls – RR 21, S 16. Fouled out – None.
Shullsburg… 5 10 8 14 - 37
Highland…… 11 2 10 9 - 32
Shullsburg – Pierce Russell 13, Connor Crotty 11, Reid Schwartz 6, Nate Houtakker 4, Bret Doyle 2, Collin Hauser 1. Totals – 14 7-15 37.
Highland – Pierick 5, Linscheid 6, Wolfe 4, Bodenstein 11, Yager 6. Totals – 13 3-4 32.
3-point goals – S 2 (Russell 2), H 3 (Pierick 1, Bodenstein 1, Yager 1). Total fouls – S 6, H 18. Fouled out – H Wolfe, Pierick.