It took a heroic effort by its scoring leader and an overtime period for Sheboygan North to pull off its sixth straight win against cross-town rival Sheboygan South the last time these two teams met.
That was last February, when the Golden Raiders boys basketball team survived a down-to-the-wire playoff match-up — winning 62-55 in overtime — after the Redwings scorched ahead to a big opening lead and threatened to force a season-ending upset. Star senior and eventual Fox River Classic Conference Player of the Year Ethan Guske poured in 40 points to help give North the lift it needed.
Chalk it up to just another North-South rivalry game where anything can happen.
“There’s definitely bragging rights involved here,” South senior Carter Amundsen said, describing what’s at stake each time the city’s Division 1 teams square off against each other. “We’re buddies with a lot of guys who play, who are from North. It’s not worth any more in the conference — a win is a win, a loss is a loss — but this one (game) just has a bit more attention in Sheboygan, at least.”
North, which has enjoyed a hot streak lately in the city’s traditional basketball civil war against South, will look to keep momentum on its side of the Sheboygan River — and the Redwings will look to swing it back in their direction — in tonight’s latest reprisal of the rivalry series. South visits North’s field house at 7:30 p.m.
Mike Rank, who’s in his first season coaching South, said he and his players aren’t mulling much over last year’s overtime game, thrilling though it was.
“For us it’s a whole new season, a whole new year,” Rank said earlier this week during a team practice. “No team is the same as last year, everyone’s got different players, different kids — different coaches from our perspective. So it’s all about new and fresh and moving forward.”
It’s been a while since Sheboygan North lost to its cross-town rival. The Golden Raiders went 2-0 against South during the regular season before surviving the playoff overtime match to hand the Redwings a third loss last year.
The wins extended North’s winning streak in the intra-municipal rivalry to six games. The Raiders haven’t lost to the Redwings since December 2010, when a pair of late Marcus Wilson free-throws in the waning seconds lifted South to a 67-66 win at home just weeks before Christmas.
“We look at the momentum of past North-South games, and we look at South doing a good job” — the Redwings have driven out to an auspicious 4-3 record to start this year — “and the bottom line comes down to what happens on the floor on Saturday night,” North coach Tom Desotell said earlier this week.
“Tradition doesn’t mean much to the athletes on the floor,” Desotell said. “It’s what happens when they’re on the floor that matters.”
The Redwings (2-1 FRCC) have focused their attention on tightening up their defense and improving their rebounding this year, tactics that have helped the team bump out to a plus-.500 record.
North (1-6, 1-3 FRCC) is playing without Guske, who graduated last year after becoming the Golden Raiders’ all-time leading scorer with 1,332 points. He was the latest in a string of 1,000-point players on North’s roster in the last few years — a list that includes Devin Yurk (1,063 points, 2008-12) and Nolan Free (1,161, 2007-09).
Next in that line could be Davis Larson, a sophomore who has put up strong numbers for North both this season and last. He’s averaging more than 17 points per game this year after putting up 13 per game as a freshman
“We know he’s going to draw a lot of attention,” Desotell said, noting the team is trying to open up more opportunities for other players to score as opposing defenses have keyed on Larson.
North point guard Eli Belmore could be a factor tonight. A junior who witnessed last year’s overtime thriller, Belmore said the lesson taken from that win is all about “resiliency” and not giving up in a close fight.
“North-South games are definitely a bigger deal. …” Belmore said. “As kids it was kind of fun just watching everyone, watching all the older guys do it, and you never really thought you’d be here one day.
“We really just have to treat it like another game,” he said. “Can’t lose our poise.”