Focus moves to tournament after Redmen split last two
RIB LAKE BOYS BASKETBALL
The top team in the Marawood North got a bit of a scare from the squad at the bottom of the league standings Monday, but the Rib Lake Redmen used 3-point and free-throw shooting success to hold off the Chequamegon Screaming Eagles 65-56 and wrap up their fine regular season.
Levi Ewan poured in 27 points, while Devyn Vlach added 15 and Nick Gerstberger scored 14 to help the Redmen finish up at 18-4 overall and 12-4 in Marawood Conference games.
Chequamegon certainly didn’t play like a 5-16 team in the first half. The Screaming Eagles were able to free up 6-5 sophomore Tanner Maier for five field goals and 11 total points, got six points from freshman Isaiah Deitz and 3-pointers from Bret Beil and Blake Karnick to hang within 36-32 at the break.
Rib Lake kept the lead by sinking six 3-pointers in the half, including two apiece from Ewan and Vlach, who also combined to make all 10 of their free throws.
Ewan continued to give the Eagles trouble in the second half, scoring 15 more points, including two more 3s and five-of-six shooting on the free throw line. Gerstberger scored seven points in the half as well. The Redmen outscored Chequamegon 29-24 in the half to secure the victory, although senior Blake Richard did his best to keep the home team in it, scoring nine of his 12 points in the half.
Ewan made seven of 12 shots overall from the field and was nine of 10 at the foul line. He added five rebounds and four assists. Vlach had six rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and two steals. Gerstberger was five of 12 from the field, pulled down four rebounds and blocked two shots.
Steven Petkau added six points, five rebounds and three assists. Logan Blomberg hit a first-half 3-pointer and had four rebounds and two assists. Ryan Patrick had five rebounds and blocked two shots.
Maier finished 13 points for the Screaming Eagles, who are 2-13 in league play heading into their regular-season finale tonight, Thursday, against Phillips. Maier made six of eight shots from the field. Deitz finished with 12 points.
Rib Lake was nine of 24 from 3-point range (37.5%) and nine of 22 on two-point shots. The Redmen made 20 of 28 free throws. Chequamegon was just two of 13 from long range and eight of 12 on free throws.
Over the weekend, Rib Lake was voted the third seed in its 16-team half-bracket in the WIAA Division 5 Pulaski sectional and will host 14th-seeded Wisconsin Rapids Assumption (1-20) at 7 p.m. in Tuesday’s regional opener. Rib Lake beat the Royals 54-36 on Jan. 10 in a Marawood Conference crossover.
The winner faces either 11th-seeded Newman Catholic (4-17) or sixth-seeded Port Edwards (12-9) on March 6 with the higher seed hosting. Rib Lake outlasted Newman 66-55 in a Feb. 7 Marawood crossover.
Almond-Bancroft (18-3) and Wild Rose (15-6) of the Central Wisconsin South Conference got the top two seeds.
Athens 63, Rib Lake 56
The Redmen overcame a slow start to beat Athens 53-50 on the Blue Jays’ home floor back on Jan. 3, but on Friday, Rib Lake was never quite able to dig out of another first-half deficit against their Marawood North rivals and fell 63-56 in its regular-season home finale.
Athens’ dominant senior center Cameron Ford hit seven of 11 shots from the field and recorded a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double and sophomore guard Cooper Diedrich shot well from the field early and sealed the deal from the free throw line late while scoring a gamehigh 23 points.
Athens improved to 9-6 in Marawood Conference play with one game left tonight, Thursday, at Prentice. The Blue Jays improved to 15-6 overall with a 74-60 win Monday at Eastern Cloverbelt Conference co-champion Spencer and, like last year, are looking like a team no one wants to play at tournament time.
The Blue Jays are the fifth seed in the playoff bracket and could face Rib Lake again in a sectional semifinal.
Rib Lake head coach Carrie Ewan said turnovers and a lack of defensive intensity hurt her team in the first half, but she was happy with the team’s play in the second half. The Redmen dug out of a 41-30 hole early in the second half and briefly led 45-44, but Athens countered with a 10-2 run that ultimately gave it enough of a cushion down the stretch.
“In the second half, I thought we came out and did a good job of taking care of Ford,” Ewan said. “We did a better job on him. We switched Levi to Diedrich. Our defense was better in the second half. We made some shots and made it an exciting game. It was a fun game on a Friday night in Rib Lake for the fans to watch. I told the boys that we sure didn’t lose because of a lack of effort.”
Petkau’s three-point play after he rebounded a missed free throw by Gerstberger got Rib Lake within 9-7 in the early going, but that’s when Athens went on a 7-0 surge that opened up a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the half. Ford scored inside and Diedrich hit a midrange jumper and a 3-pointer. Blomberg hit a 3-pointer, but Ford scored again inside to push the Jays’ lead to 18-10.
Rib Lake countered with a 10-2 surge, keyed by an offensive putback by Patrick and Levi Ewan’s 3-pointer, which followed a big blocked shot defensively by Vlach. That shot tied it at 20-20. Athens scored the next four points and went on to lead 31-25 at the half.
Petkau’s 3-pointer cut the Athens lead to 33-28, but Athens got 3s from Dayne Diethelm and Javon Penney to open up its 11-point edge with just under 14 minutes left.
But Blomberg, Vlach and Ewan all buried 3-pointers to give Rib Lake a quick nine points and Gerstberger answered a Ford hoop with a triple of his own to suddenly make it a 43-42 game. Ewan’s trifecta from the left corner off a baseline inbound play put the Redmen ahead for the first time in the game with 8:30 left.
Ford scored off a high-low feed from Penney, but Patrick scored off an Ewan assist to put Rib Lake ahead 47-46. Three free throws from Diedrich, a key bucket by Penney, an Aiden Janke free throw and Diedrich’s hoop with 2:21 left put Athens up 54-47.
Rib Lake got two free throws from Gerstberger and another corner inbound 3 from Ewan to close within 54-52 with 1:41 left. But Athens made nine of 10 free throws from there to hold on.
Ewan, who was the obvious focal point of Athens’ defensive game plan in the first half, wound up scoring 16 points to lead the Redmen. Petkau and Gerstberger scored 11 points each, Patrick scored seven and Blomberg finished with six on his two 3-pointers and Vlach scored three points. Gerstberger had nine rebounds while Pektau had five and Vlach and Patrick had four. Ewan had seven assists, while Petkau had three. Petkau had three steals and Vlach blocked two shots.
Rib Lake was 18 of 55 from the field (32.7%), including nine of 30 on 3-point shots. Athens was 21 of 46 overall (45.7%), including four of 13 on 3s. Athens was 17 of 27 at the free throw line, while Rib Lake was 11 of 15. The Jays outrebounded Rib Lake 37-25.
“Athens is a tough matchup for us, they always have been,” Ewan said. “We definitely wanted to win this one. We were disappointed. We just have to get back in our groove, shake this off. Boys are pretty resilient. I don’t think they’ll worry a lot about this one game. They know that tournaments are coming and the slate is clean again.”