Hudson coach John Dornfeld knew Chippewa Falls was going to make a run. He just wanted his team to make sure it was ready for it.
The Raiders answered a sluggish start with a 16-2 run of their own on their way to opening an 11-point lead over the Cardinals at the break Friday night at home. Sure enough, the Cardinals pulled to within two midway through the second half but the Raiders answered again, pulling away for a 73-65 victory to hold on to sole possession of first place in the Big Rivers Conference.
"We have tough kids and they battled," Dornfeld said. "I feel really, really good. In fact we'd have felt good coming out of here with a one-point win, so to win it going away here at the end was nice."
The Raiders fell behind 9-1 out of the gate before their 16-2 run. A Peyton Reece layup tied the score 11-11 and Landen Bilse followed with a drive to give Hudson the lead for good. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jacob Daulton pushed the Raider lead to 29-18 with 5:40 left in the half and the lead remained 11, 36-25, at the break.
Chippewa Falls pulled within two, 55-53, with 7:11 remaining but a Daulton free throw, a 3-pointer by Keyser Helterbrand and a fast-break layup by Luke Healy made it a 61-53 game with 4:05 left. The Cardinals never got any closer than six the rest of the way.
Dornfeld said building that double-digit lead early paid off in the end.
"It gave us enough cushion that when Chippewa did made a run, which we talked about at halftime; we said they're going to make a run guys and you just have to be ready. In the end we needed every point but it felt much better because we did get off to kind of a sluggish start. Honestly I never expected that in any time of the game that we'd be up by ten points. I thought this would be back and forth, two-three points."
Daulton and Reece led four Raiders in double figures with 15 points each and Helterbrand scored 14 while Healy contributed 12. Bilse added 9 and Charlie Neuenschwander had 8. Helterbrand also dished out five assists and along with Daulton keyed the Raider's defensive effort against Chippewa's 6-foot, 8-inch Tyler Robarge, a Michigan Tech recruit, and 6-6 junior Payton Roberge-Schmidt. The pair combined for 31 of the Cardinal's 65 points but Hudson got some big stops when it needed them.
"We gave up 17 offensive rebounds the first time we played them so we knew that we had to take care of the glass better," Dornfeld said. "Really a big tribute to Jacob Daulton and Keyser Helterbrand, who guarded their big guys and rebounded with their big guys, and then really good play from the guards. A good team win."
The victory kept Hudson one game ahead of Eau Claire North and Eau Claire Memorial in the BRC standings with a record of 6-2, while Chippewa Falls slipped to 4-4.
The Raiders, now 11-3 overall, will visit River Falls (10-5, 4-3) Thursday, Jan. 31 before hosting Eau Claire North Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m.