Redmen inch closer to the North title
The Phillips Loggers may have felt opportunity was knocking going into Tuesday’s Marawood North boys basketball showdown with Rib Lake.
The Redmen, however, slammed that door shut pretty quickly.
Rib Lake made a sudden statement by sinking their first three shots and taking a 7-0 lead just 1:20 in. The Redmen held off a few early surges and then, for the most part, coasted to a 70-53 road win that put them 1.5 games up on the Loggers in the North standings and 2.5 ahead of Athens with three weeks to play in the regular season.
The win didn’t clinch the conference title for Rib Lake (9-2 Marawood, 14-2 overall), but it puts them in total command.
“I was happy with the way they played tonight,” head coach Carrie Ewan said after the win. “They came out and played with confidence. They didn’t come out flat, that’s for sure. They came out firing. That’s what we have to do.”
The Loggers never found an answer de- fensively when the Redmen had their starters on the floor. Levi Ewan was in command of the offense, pouring in a game-high 23 points, making the right pass and getting his teammates in the right sets throughout the game. Nick Gerstberger scored 14 points, doing damage both inside and outside while working around some foul trouble. Senior shooting guard Devyn Vlach also appears to have regained his early season stroke. After 21 points Friday at Lake Holcombe, he hit a couple of key 3-pointers and drove to the hoop for two more scores in a 10-point outing.
“The 3s are starting to go in, but mainly I’m getting better by driving,” Vlach said.
“We can be unstoppable,” Steven Petkau said of the offense when Vlach is hitting.
Ewan hit a mid-range jumper, Petkau scored off a nice spin move and Gerstberger hit a top of the key 3-pointer for Rib Lake’s first seven points, which forced Phillips to quickly burn a timeout. The teams traded baskets over the next several minutes. A Derek Loomis 3-pointer pulled Phillips (8-4, 9-7) within 16-11 with about 11 minutes left in the half and a Nate Belan triple made it 20-14 just over a minute later.
But Gerstberger buried his second 3-pointer to start a key Rib Lake run that was accomplished even with him and Petkau spending much of the half’s last nine minutes on the bench with two fouls each. Ewan made a left-handed scoop shot and Logan Blomberg hit a big 3-pointer with 5:25 left for a 29-16 lead.
The Redmen spread things out and slowed things down with a four corners look in the last five minutes and got a bucket from Petkau on a backdoor cut off a Ryan Patrick assist. Vlach hit a huge triple from the left side with two seconds left that extended a 12-point lead to 15 at 34-19.
“We had Steven and Nick both with two fouls, our two big guys,” Carrie Ewan said. “That’s kind of a scary thing. Brock (Thiede) had pulled something in his hip for awhile and he was out. We were getting a little bit shallow on the bench in the first half, but the guys handled it well, scored a few times and got a couple stops. We had the momentum going into the locker room with that last-second 3 by Devyn.”
The Redmen answered a Sawyer Kirchmeyer 3-pointer that opened the second half with a Vlach drive, then a Petkau dunk. Vlach’s 3-pointer made it 41-25 and the lead hit 20 at 45-25 when Patrick scored off a Vlach assist following a scramble for a loose ball.
The Loggers went to an extended 1-3-1 defense in the half and the Redmen welcomed that, beating it with solid passing to get inside looks and two 3-point daggers from Ewan another by Blomberg to go up by as much as 24 points.
“When they went to the 1-3-1, you never know what’s going to happen,” Carrie Ewan said. “I like to go inside as much as we can against a 1-3-1 and not get that mentality that we have to just throw everything up from the outside. You can be one and done real fast and a lead can shrink real quick. We were hitting from the outside and it went our way tonight.”
“We’re really confident going against 1-3-1s,” Gerstberger said. “We have no problem with it. We know how to work the ball around and get open shots. That’s all it comes down to.”
Petkau finished with eight points, Blomberg had seven points, including his two key 3s off the bench and Patrick was his efficient self scoring seven points while missing only one shot from the field. Thiede added a late free throw.
Kirchmeyer led Phillips with 13 points and Taber Fawley added 12. Outside of Kirchmeyer’s four second-half 3s, the Loggers did little in their halfcourt sets as offensive rebounds tended to be their most effective way to get to the rim.
“I was very happy with our defense,” Carrie Ewan said. “I thought we played excellent on the defensive end, helping on their post guys.”
Next up for Rib Lake is a trip to Wausau Friday to face Newman Catholic in a 5:45 p.m. tip. The Cardinals are 3-12 overall. The Redmen host North rival Abbotsford on Monday before getting Division 4’s second-ranked Stratford Tigers at home on Feb. 13. Those home games have 7:15 p.m. tip times. Rib Lake is ranked eighth this week in Division 5 and is determined to not get too far ahead of itself this month.
“We’re sitting right where we want to be for conference,” Carrie Ewan said. “We have Newman on Friday night. Believe me, that’s all we’re focused on now is Newman. We don’t care about scenarios or anything else.”
“Yeah, my mom’s big on that,” Levi Ewan said. “One game at a time.”
Redmen 87, Chieftains 52
In non-conference play Friday, Rib Lake allowed host Lake Holcombe to stay close for a half, but its offensive explosion in the second half blew the Chieftains away in an 87-52 final.
The loss was the third straight for Lake Holcombe, which has since righted the ship with two wins and sits at a solid 12-5 overall. The Chieftains, however, were no match for the Redmen once they cleaned up some first-half sloppiness.
“We had, I believe, 10 or 11 turnovers in the first half against Holcombe,” Carrie Ewan said. “We had the lead built up to 11 or 12 at one point, but then we were only up seven at the half. In the second half, we took care of the ball. We did not throw it away. We gave ourselves a lot more shots and shot very well from twopoint range. We played well defensively, quit turning the ball over and it ended up being a pretty lopsided game.”
The halftime lead was 30-23 as Gerstberger had nine early points and Ewan had eight, including a couple of 3s. All four of the senior starters found their grooves in the second half. Gerstberger sank three 3-pointers in the half and finished with a game-high 22 points. Vlach hit two 3s early to spark his 15-point half and 21-point total for the night. Ewan scored 11 more points to finish with 19 and Petkau went eight of 13 from the free throw line after halftime to finish with 10.
Patrick had two points and Blomberg finished with five, including a first-half 3-pointer. Off the bench late, Matthew Siroin scored five points and Michael Borchardt added four free throws without a miss.
Rib Lake outscored Lake Holcombe 5729 in the second half.
Kaden Crank and Jarred Jiskra led the home team with 12 points apiece. Jiskra had eight first-half points, while Crank scored nine after halftime.