Just when it appeared as though Wisconsin Rapids would run away from Wausau West, the Warriors clawed back.
The Raiders countered the Warriors’ 3-point shooting by sinking 9 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull out a 55-49 victory during Wisconsin Valley Conference basketball action Friday night.
Wausau West was spot on from beyond the arc, making 6 of 13, while Rapids made 17 of 22 from the line. With the win, the Raiders pulled even at 2-2 in the league, while the Warriors slipped to 0-4.
“I’m proud of the guys’ effort and it’s been there all year,” West coach Jeff Bruggink said. “There were a couple of times in the game when the momentum really swung Rapids’ way and we hung in there.”
Trailing by five entering the fourth quarter, West was right on Rapids’ heels and closed the gap to 48-46 with 49 seconds left on Taylor Penn’s fourth 3-pointer of the game. Penn led all scorers with 17 points.
But as the Warriors got within striking range, they had to foul to stop the clock and the Raiders made enough from the line to seal the win.
“We needed this one,” said Rapids coach Dan Witter, whose team is now 2-8 overall. “We made our free throws down the stretch and if we didn’t make them, this might have been a different game.”
Rapids sophomore Alex Bassuener made the lion’s share from the line in the fourth quarter, going 5 for 7 and finishing with 14 points. He was also the Raiders top outside shooter, draining 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
The Raiders got 15 big points from post player Riley Presley, who also made 5 of 7 from the line.
“We shoot better from inside, so we look to get the ball in to Riley,” Witter said. “We also took care of the ball tonight and did a pretty good job of rebounding.”
Rapids senior Zach Bassuener hauled in 10 rebounds, while Brendan Lewandowski pulled in 12 rebounds and had 10 points for the Warriors.
Early on, the 3-pointer carried the Warriors to a 16-15 lead at the quarter. In the first 8 minutes of the game, West made half of its long-range shots.
The Raiders held a 14-7 scoring edge in the second quarter and took a six-point advantage into the half.
“The guys have been working hard all season and doing what we ask of them,” Bruggink said. “These guys fight hard in every game, and that has me excited for the second half of the season.”
Each team had two players score in double figures and both had six players score points. Jordan Huehnerfuss was next for the Warriors with seven points, while the Raiders had four players score six points apiece.
“This is a good group of kids,” Bruggink added. “The challenges we are facing right now will help them later in life. They’ll look back and be able to say they battled through them. Athletics is about learning to overcome challenges as much as it is about winning and losing.”
The Warriors will host their own holiday tournament starting Dec. 27, while the Raiders will travel to Stevens Point for the 41st annual Sentry Classic.
“This was a good way to go into the break and it hopefully will give us a little more confidence heading into the Sentry Classic,” Witter said. “We’re going to get back at it Sunday night, take a few days off for Christmas and get ready for Beaver Dam on Friday morning.”
The Raiders will face Rice Lake in their second game of the Classic.
WAUSAU WEST: Jordan Huehnerfuss 7, Andrew Fischer 5, Taylor Penn 17, Brendan Lewandowski 10, Tyler Schertz 6, Andy Yang 4.
WISCONSIN RAPIDS: Zach Bassuener 6, Riley Presley 15, Alex Bassuener 14, Regis Henke 6, Jayson Wiernik 6, Jace Williamson 6.
3-pointers: Wausau West 7-13 (Huehnerfuss, Penn 4, Schertz 2); Wisconsin Rapids 6-14 (Z.Bassuener, A.Bassuener 3, Williamson 2).
Records: Wisconsin Rapids 2-8, 2-2 WVC; Wausau West 2-6, 0-4 WVC.