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Great effort not quite enough against Big Rivers champions

Great effort not quite enough against Big Rivers champions Great effort not quite enough against Big Rivers champions


The Medford Raiders got the test they expected Thursday in Chippewa Falls and got just about everything they needed from it, except for a win.

While Logan Baumgartner scored 18 points and Mason Rudolph added 15 for the Raiders, it wasn’t quite enough to offset a game-high 23 points from Chippewa Falls’ 6-6 standout Peyton Rogers-Schmidt in a 59-51 loss to the Big Rivers Conference champions.

The Cardinals, now 17-4 overall, also got crucial back-to-back 3-pointers from Nick Bruder and five big points from 6-4 forward Jacob Walczak down the stretch to give themselves just enough of a cushion to get the hard-fought victory.

“We saw what it’s like when you play a good, long, big defensive team,” Medford head coach Ryan Brown said after the Raiders fell to 17-4. “We found other guys that were able to step up and keep us in that game when they did a really good job of defending some of our primary scorers. That’s what we’ve said all year. When you’re a good team, guys step up. They gave us a chance. We got some stops and we were right there in that last minute or two.”

From start to finish, the game featured excellent half-court defenses by both teams leading to patient approaches by both offenses as they sought to find the match-ups and openings they could exploit.

Medford led 7-4 six minutes in, but a 9-0 run gave the Cardinals their biggest lead of the first half at 13-7. The run included seven points from Rogers-Schmidt, two of which came on a forceful two-handed slam dunk off a post feed from Bruder.

The Raiders settled back in, sparked by Baumgartner’s bucket in transition off a long pass from Justin Sullivan. Rudolph knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game and Baumgartner drilled one of his own as the Raiders beat Chi-Hi’s brief attempt to use a 1-3-1 zone. Baumgartner got a runner in the lane to fall to give Medford a 17-13 lead with 7:04 left in the half. He drove again and scored and that was followed by a Doug Way basket from the right block, capping a 14-2 run that put the Raiders up 21-15.

The Cardinals responded with a 9-3 surge that deadlocked things at 24-24 at halftime.

The lead changed hands five times in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Peyton Kuhn’s 3-pointer from the top of the key put the Raiders up 30-27. Ty Baker made two free throws and then scored off Sullivan’s drive and dish for a 34-30 Medford lead. Baker’s drive through the middle of the lane tied it at 39-39 and showed throughout the second half he had no fear of trying to penetrate the Chi-Hi defense.

“He was going strong when he was seeing the opportunity and that’s one thing we tried to state at halftime, especially to Peyton,” Brown said. “We said, ‘keep doing what you’re doing because if you have Rogers or (6-4 Joe) Reuter on you, then it’s taking all eyes off (other offensive players). That allowed us in the first half and the second half to get some attacks to the rim where there wasn’t a lot of help, at least not from Reuter and Peyton Rogers-Schmidt, the two guys that are going to those blocks and deflections.”

Bruder answered Baker’s drive with his pair of triples to give Chi-Hi a 45-39 lead. The Raiders clawed back within 47-45 when Baumgartner swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key behind a huge screen by Brady Hupf on Rogers-Schmidt.

But Walczak swished his own trey from the right side off a Rogers-Schmidt kickout. The Raiders countered with another Baker shot rolling on after another aggressive move to the hoop and two free throws by Kuhn with 2:21 left to get within 50-49.

But Walczak came up with a huge offensive rebound and putback off a missed 3 at the two-minute mark. Rudolph’s 3-point attempt was just off the mark with 1:27 left and the Raiders had to play the foul-and-chase game the rest of the way. The Cardinals made seven of eight free throws in the final 61 seconds to seal the win.

Bruder scored 15 points for Chi-Hi and Reuter had 10. But with his length and leaping ability, Rogers-Schmidt certainly left the biggest impression of any Cardinal. He was six of 11 from the field, 10 of 16 from the free throw line and added 12 rebounds, including 11 on the defensive end, six assists and three blocked shots.

“We knew that he was predominantly a ball handler this year,” Brown said. “He didn’t do a ton in the paint but he would go in there on occasion. We wanted to put a lengthy athletic player on him and let our bigs stay at the rim line, so if he did get a touch in the post we could look to double immediately. When he was on the perimeter, we wanted to have someone with enough speed to try to keep him on a side, to be able to switch and do some of those things that we need to do to try to keep him out of the paint.”

Baumgartner’s 18 points came on seven- of-13 shooting. Rudolph hit three firsthalf 3s and added six points mainly off drives in the second half. He also led Medford with five rebounds. Baker scored nine, shaking off early foul trouble while trying to defend Rogers-Schmidt, Kuhn scored seven and Way finished with two. Sullivan didn’t score but had five assists and four rebounds. Way had four boards and two assists.

Medford held a 30-26 rebounding advantage against their longer and taller opponents. The grind-it-out pace kept turnovers down as Medford had only seven and Chi-Hi had eight.

“There wasn’t many bad shots,” Brown said of Medford’s offense. “Maybe a couple times we tried to force it driving. A couple of times we tried to attack hard. Sometimes you have to live with that late, maybe hope you get a foul.”

Medford closes the regular season tonight, Thursday, by hosting Lakeland at 7:15 p.m. Then it’s on to some tough competition in the western side of the WIAA Division 2 sectional bracket.

Despite its 11-0 conference record and 17-4 overall mark, Medford was only able to secure a six-seed out of 11 teams on this side of the bracket. The Raiders will host 11th-seeded Rice Lake (2-19) at 7 p.m. on March 3 in the opening round of regional play. The winner earns a March 6 regional semifinal date at third-seeded New Richmond (18-3). Medford beat Rice Lake 58-37 back on Jan. 14.

The top two seeds are Onalaska (20-1) and La Crosse Central (17-5), who have the top two ranked teams in the state in Division 2 for most of the year. Onalaska won both meetings between the teams in Mississippi Valley Conference play.

Medford would most likely play at Central in a March 7 regional final if it can navigate its way past Rice Lake and New Richmond.