Conner Harrison explained Sheboygan South’s mentality on defense this week, and it was simple.
Pack the lane.
In Saturday’s boys basketball game against cross-town rival Sheboygan North, that strategy did its job. South’s defense limited the Golden Raiders’ opportunities near the basket, giving South’s offense enough breathing room to construct a few runs and escape with an emotionally important 59-54 win on the road.
“This is all on the kids,” South coach Mike Rank said. “They got this win tonight.”
Harrison dumped in a game-high 20 points, Jared Reklaitis helped with 12 and Erik Tetschlag scored 11 to help South avoid a regular season sweep in the much-anticipated matchup between the city’s Division 1 rivals.
Davis Larson led North with 16 points, most of them in the second half. Eric Suscha added nine points and Eli Belmore had eight.
“I was feeling great,” Harrison said. “We had everything working, we had a lot of energy on the bench and on the floor and everything was great tonight.
“In my career I’ve only beaten them twice,” Harrison added. South’s last win in the emotionally charged rivalry series was last season. “… It was an awesome feeling in the locker room.”
For North, the problem on Saturday was simple: Shots just weren’t dropping. The team struggled to move the ball inside, and when the Raiders did manage field goals near the lane they rarely fell in. More often, North had to settle for moving the ball around and shooting from the perimeter.
For South, things were just as simple. The defense — the part of the game coach Mike Rank has stressed all season — was doing its job, and the Redwings offense did well enough to build and keep a lead, eventually creeping out to as much as a 12-point gap in the fourth quarter.
“We usually stretch the defense with some 3s and then we have an inside game,” North coach Tom Desotell said. “But they kept their guys inside and dared us to shoot them.
“But give credit to their big guys, they were so tough tonight,” Desotell added, pointing to work on offense by Harrison, Tetschlag and Reklaitis. “…Their three bigs hurt us more than anything. That’s all due to some toughness on their part, give them credit.”
Still, North never strayed too far behind. Larson was the team’s main threat inside, and usually hit his shots once he got near the basket. North’s Matt Gerber hit a few key 3-pointers down the stretch — including a fadeaway deep in the corner — to help narrow the gap.
South was sharp from the free throw line down the stretch to help hold onto the win.
“They just outplayed us, outworked us, made shots, worked the ball around and we didn’t play well defensively,” Larson said, giving credit especially to South’s three leading scorers.
“They deserve to win that game,” Larson added. “They outplayed us.”
The game was an exhibition of how South had fixed many of the problems that had plagued the Redwings the last time they squared off against North.
The last time these two teams played, just before Christmas, South opened the first half shooting hot from 3-point range and taking a lead into halftime. But when the Redwings cooled down offensively in the second half, North capitalized with a 20-7 run in the third quarter to swing momentum and steal the win.
This time, South built its lead on tough defense and meticulous work on offense to move the ball around and select good shots. And this time, the offense didn’t let up in the third and fourth quarters, preventing North from getting a chance to catch up or turn the tables.
SHEBOYGAN SOUTH — Harrison 19, Tetschlag 13, Reklaitis 12, Miller 5, Pitsch 4, Guiterrez 4, Guenther 1; 3-pt: Harrison 1, Miller 1; FT: 13-18; F: 13
SHEBOYGAN NORTH — Larson 16, Suscha 9, Belmore 8, Gerber 7, Hasenstein 7, Rudolph 3, Cinealis 2, Platz 2; 3-pt: Belmore 2, Gerber 2, Hasenstein 1, Rudolph 1; FT: 6-11; F: 15
South…14 17 9 19 — 59
North…12 10 11 21 — 54