HUDSON, Wis.-- With eight seniors gone from last year’s team that came two points away from a state tournament berth, the Hudson boys’ basketball team figures to look a lot different this year.
But they looked a lot like their old selves in their season opener Saturday night, Nov. 30, at home against Park.
The Raiders, who averaged nearly 65 points per game last season and went over the 80-point mark four times, threw 92 on the scoreboard against Park to pull away for a 92-64 season opening victory.
Every player on the roster scored at least two points, led by returning All-Big Rivers Conference junior guard Luke Healy with 27.
“We had a pretty solid performance with a young group of guys that have not had much varsity experience,” head coach John Dornfeld said. “We have a skilled group of players that are unselfish and work very hard so we are excited for the season.”
Dornfeld said senior Charlie Neuenschwander continues to play bigger than his 6-3 frame and contributed 14 points and eight rebounds while senior Mateo Renta had 14 points and four assists and junior Carter Herink added 11 points and five boards.
While Dornfeld said the returning varsity players carried much of the load, the team got strong contributions from a bunch of newcomers, including senior Brock Welle with eight points and five assists, and junior Brandon Moeri with three points and eight boards.
Dornfeld said juniors Bennett Swavely and Cole Jacobson also looked good, but the win came at a cost when Swavely fractured his wrist after taking a hard fall on a drive to the basket in the second half and is expected to miss at least two months.
“Bennett was poised for a breakout year for us as we were counting on his scoring and playmaking ability,” Dornfeld said. “We will miss him and we are just hoping he can still come back this year and impact our season down the home stretch.”
Like last year, Dornfeld said the key to success this year will start on defense. Hudson struggled with their transition defense in the first half Saturday night and had just a five-point lead at the break before getting some shots to fall and wearing Park down in the second half.
“We’re working at continuing to push the pace and get out in transition, and we know we are more successful with that when we are defending well,” Dornfeld said. “We continue to work hard at our man-to-man pressure, and believe it should be a consistent strength for us. And we have good team quickness and some athleticism.”
While they rebounded well in their opener, Dornfeld said the Raiders will have to do better against bigger teams. They also can’t continue to turn the ball over 19 times like they did Saturday night.
“Nineteen turnovers is too many,” the coach said. “We won't compete with the best teams without bringing that number down significantly.”
And they’ll see some of those best teams right off the bat in conference play. The Raiders shared the BRC title with River Falls a year ago and will visit the Wildcats for the conference opener this Friday night, Dec. 6, and will host Eau Claire North and returning BRC Player of the Year Daulton Banks Friday, Dec. 13.
Dornfeld said the BRC will be as strong as ever this season. While Hudson lost three All-BRC players from a year ago, nine of the other 12 all-conference selections return for their respective teams.
“Both of the publications that do pre-season conference rankings have Eau Claire North, River Falls and Eau Claire Memorial as the early favorites,” Dornfeld noted. “We were ranked fourth in one and fifth in the other, but we believe we can compete well with all of them.”