RIVER FALLS, Wis.-- Sometimes you have to earn your home cooking.
After losing their first two home games of the season, the Wildcat boys' basketball team made No. 3 the charm Friday night, Jan. 10, with a 79-59 Big Rivers Conference victory over Eau Claire Memorial.
The win came three nights after Holmen used their home court advantage to hand the Cats a 51-41 loss in a nonconference game with sectional seeding implications.
The split left the Cats with records of 7-3 overall, 3-2 in the BRC, heading into games against St. Paul Highland Park and Chippewa Falls this week.
The Wildcats were 0-2 at home before hosting the Old Abes Friday night, but after exchanging leads six times early pulled away for a 20-point win.
“Having only our third home game of the year and dropping our first two as well as following up Tuesday night's uncharacteristic play, I was really proud of the preparation the boys had on Wednesday and Thursday,” Wildcat coach Zac Campbell said. “Once we got through the initial five minutes of play where we settled for a lot of below average looks I thought we executed near as well as we have all year on the offensive end which led to our productive shooting percentage.”
The Cats shot 53 percent (30 of 57) for the game while holding the Old Abes to just 31 percent shooting from the field (22 of 70).
Zac Johnson led four Wildcats in double figures with 26 points and added six rebounds, three assists and two steals while JT Dougherty added 14 points, Liam Dougherty scored 12, and Payton Flood had 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Campbell said JT Dougherty did a great job defensively against Eau Claire Memorial’s Caden Boser, who finished with 19 points but was just 7-of-23 from the field.
“JT Dougherty had one of his best defensive performances of his career on Caden Boser and a lot of help off the ball from his teammates,” Campbell said. “Offensively, Zac Johnson showed a lot of poise in making good reads off of screen action while JT and Liam finished with good balance.
“This game was won on Wednesday and Thursday in our preparation and watching the bounce-back mentality of our team,” he added.
The game was a stark contrast to the Cats’ 51-41 loss at Holmen Tuesday night. The Cats won the turnover battle 11-10, outrebounded the Vikings 36-34, and had 19 deflections during the game, but shooting just 4-of-33 from the 3-point line was not a recipe for success.
“That ultimate cure for any ills in basketball is shooting the basketball well, and going 4 of 33 from the 3-point line simply doesn't give you a chance to win,” Campbell noted. “As the misses started to pile up our confidence waned and we were unable to mentally respond appropriately, which started to take a toll on our conversions, decision making, as well as our defensive activity and communication.”
Johnson led the Wildcats with 14 points but was just 3 of 14 from 3-point range while Flood had 10 points and a team-high three assists.
It’s the sixth straight year the home team has won by double digits in the nonconference rivalry.
“For whatever reason we have been unable to put together a performance that resembles the way our program has been modeled at their place and they have been unable to respond at our place either,” Campbell said.