Raiders clamp down on defensive end, earn quality road win
MEDFORD BOYS BASKETBALL
The Medford Raiders held one of the area’s top early-season scorers 20 points under his average and one of the area’s higher-scoring teams 30 points under its average Thursday while beating Wausau East 62-47 and extending its winning streak to five games.
After a tight first half, the Raiders took control of the game with an 11-0 surge early in the second half that turned a 28-28 tie into a 39-28 lead. Peyton Kuhn played the role of zone buster as he scored 19 of his game-high 28 points after the break as the Raiders didn’t let the lead get under nine the rest of the way.
But the story was the defense, which held East’s 6-6 scoring machine Gabe Krueger to 16 points on just four-of-12 shooting from the field and held a team that had been scoring 77.8 points per game in its first six contests to 18 secondhalf points while forcing 25 turnovers.
Doug Way and Brady Hupf drew the primary man-to-man assignments against Krueger, but they had plenty of help every time he touched the ball.
“That was some of the best defense we’ve played, it’s starting to come around for us,” Medford head coach Ryan Brown said. “That’s where it all started with the defense and obviously that started against Krueger. He’s averaging 36, 37 points a game. We did a really good job guarding him in the post, three-quarter fronting and then getting backside help all night long. We did a great job of not letting him go baseline. Our posts were all over him, we were getting deflections, getting our double teams on him right away.”
Both teams got off to slow offensive starts. Medford finally got on the game’s first true run, scoring eight straight when Logan Baumgartner got a friendly roll on a 3-point shot, Justin Sullivan dropped in a 3 off a Baumgartner assist and John McMurry scored off an East turnover to make it 17-9. East came storming back on a Ben Cayley 3 and two Krueger hoops to cut the lead to one. Cayley’s late 3 gave East a brief 27-26 lead, but Kuhn’s steal and score gave Medford a slim 28-27 halftime edge.
Cayley was the offensive star of the first half with 12 points on four 3-pointers. But he picked up his third foul at the 2:32 mark and sat for the remainder of the half. “The first half they skipped the ball, which we expected them to do,” Brown said. “We defended it OK. We didn’t quite close out with the intensity we needed to at times and Cayley hit three or four threes to keep them in it. We were much better in the second half. We were talking better and just made it tough for them. To hold Krueger 20 points under his average, we did some really good things.”
Krueger’s free throw opened the second half scoring, but Baumgartner countered with a 3-pointer, then Kuhn hit two straight bombs, the second off of a nice kickout pass from Baumgartner. Mc-Murry pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on a nice left-handed shot to cap the game-changing 11-0 run. Kuhn’s 3 behind a Hupf screen off a crosscourt pass from Baumgartner pushed the lead to 44-30. The lead got as high as 17 at 55-38 on Kuhn’s final bucket of the night.
Kuhn added five steals, seven deflections, five assists and five rebounds to his stat line for the night. Baumgartner scored 11 points and had six rebounds, four assists, six deflections and four steals. Sullivan chipped in with six points and three rebounds.
Ty Baker scored six points and added three rebounds and two steals. McMurry had five points, four boards and two steals. Way scored four points and had four rebounds. Hupf had a bucket and two rebounds. Onyi Ekwueme had three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“Peyton scored 28 but a lot of that was the result of the team attacking and finding him,” Brown said.
Cayley led East (4-3) with 17 points. The Lumberjacks shot just 33.3% from the field (15 of 45), while Medford was 22 of 48 (45.8%). East had a slight 33-30 rebounding advantage. Medford had a big 27-10 edge in points off turnovers.
Brown said since giving up 81 points in the season-opening loss to D.C. Everest, the Raiders have made great strides defensively. The Evergreens have been lighting it up early on, averaging 91 points per game in their first three games.
“Everybody is closing out with high hands, we’re not giving up much in the middle, our rotations are getting better,” Brown said. “We’re doing it without running and jumping. We’re just going full court man with an occasional trap and the last couple games we’ve been forcing 23-24 turnovers a game.”
The Raiders will get tested again with games today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, at the Shawano Sun Drop Shootout held at UW-Green Bay’s Kress Center. They’ll face a Green Bay Southwest team Thursday that Brown said is better than its 0-5 record indicates. Game time is 1:40 p.m. On Friday, they get Division 2’s 10th-ranked team Seymour at 3:15 p.m.
“The guys are excited about going up against these teams,” Brown said. “For us, the main thing is to just try to be a little bit better.”