The Wisconsin Rapids boys basketball team team was riding a huge wave of momentum Friday night.
Having cut a 13-point deficit to one early in the third quarter, the Raiders were on the verge of sending Stevens Point Area Senior High into panic mode.
That is until the Panthers sent out an S.O.S. and junior guard George Diekelman answered the call.
Diekelman scored five straight points to help SPASH right its ship and eventually secure a 56-45 win over the Raiders to remain unbeaten in Wisconsin Valley Conference play and overall.
“George hit a big shot for us and that kind of restarted us,” SPASH coach Scott Anderson said. “What I really like about this team is we have a number of able scorers who can come up big when their number is called and knock down shots.”
Despite its 1-6 record coming into the matchup, it should come as no surprise the Raiders would push their rivals to the limit.
Knocking down several 3-pointers late in the opening half to trim a 13-point deficit to eight at the break, Rapids continued to build on the momentum.
A 9-2 run to open the third quarter brought the Raiders within 34-33 and thoughts of an upset were very much alive until Diekelman said enough was enough.
The ironic part is the SPASH junior was probably the last person the Raiders, who never got closer than four points the rest of the game, were worried about hurting them in that spot.
“I was talking to one of my assistants, and we were like if we’re going to leave anyone open, (Diekelman) would probably be the guy. Give him credit, he made the shots,” Wisconsin Rapids coach Dan Winter said.
Struggling early to match the Raiders’ physicality, SPASH turned to a 1-3-1 zone try to shake their rivals to the west.
With 6-foot-4 freshman Sam Hauser at the point, the Panthers were able to create some turnovers and convert them into easy buckets to build a 30-17 lead in the second quarter.
Just when SPASH might have felt it could start breathing a little easier, the Raiders hit back-to-back 3-pointers from Zach Bassuener and Jace Williamson to get right back in the game.
Needless to say, Anderson expected Rapids to give his team its best shot and that certainly turned out to be the case.
“You know how good and opponent is and it being a rivalry as a coach. You know what you’re in for, and as kids, you hope they know what it’s going to take,” the SPASH coach said. “I really like our poise. We have some tough-minded kids who know how to win, want to win and maybe expect to win.”
Diekelman paced a balanced attack with 14 points. Trevor Anderson added 13 points and Hauser chipped in with 12.
Bassuener led the way for the Raiders with 11 points, while Regis Henke finished with 10.
Despite coming up short in their bid to pull off the upset, there were a number of encouraging signs moving forward.
“I think we did what we wanted against the 1-3-1 zone, we just didn’t knock down some shots, and we made them work for everything they got on the other end,” Winter said. “Overall, I thought the kids played hard and I’m not displeased at all.”
Wisconsin Rapids (45): Zach Bassuener 11, Hunter Langholff 2, Riley Presley 5, Jace Williamson 6, Alex Bassuener 5, Regis Henke 10, Jayson Wiernik 6.
SPASH (56): Sam Griffith 6, George Diekelman 14, Trevor Anderson 13, Ryan Sullivan 8, Sam Hauser 12, Jon Barnes 3.
3-pointers: Wisconsin Rapids 5 (Z. Bassuener 2, Williamson 2, A. Bassuener), SPASH 6 (Diekelman 2, Anderson 2, Barnes, Sullivan).
Records: SPASH 8-0, 3-0 Valley; Wisconsin Rapids 1-7, 1-2 Valley.