HUDSON, Wis. -- Hudson girls basketball coach Jess Vadnais likes to use two words when describing the seventh-ranked Raiders.
“They have the will, and they have the heart,” she said. “And they just do anything to win. They don't care who scores, they don't care who has the ball, they just don't care, but in the best way possible. Because they just want to win and help each out.”
The Raiders won two more games last week-- 62-22 at River Falls Tuesday, Jan. 21 and 45-23 Thursday at Rice Lake-- to clinch at least a share of the Big Rivers Conference title and improve to 14-0 on the season. They’re 14 wins have come by an average of 23 points per game while outrebounding teams by anywhere from five to 10. But the stat that stands out to Vadnais the most is the team’s average of 15 assists per game.
“I think that's one of my favorite stats, for sure,” she said. “Usually you're making between 25 and 30 field goals between twos and threes, just depending on how much we're scoring. I think there was one game this year we had 24 assists on 26 field goals. I don't know if I've ever seen that at a high school level.”
In the Raiders’ 40-point victory at River Falls last week they totalled 16 assists on 24 field goals and held River Falls to eight points in the first half while racing out to a 27-8 lead.
Six different Raiders scored at least eight points, led by Livi Boily with 13. Sophia Jonas finished with 11 points, five assists and four steals and Grace Lewis scored 13 points. Audrey Hatfield contributed nine points, six rebounds and three blocked shots and Kira Young had nine points and four boards while Grace Johnson scored eight points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
Keyah Strop finished as River Falls’ leading scorer with eight points in addition to grabbing a team-high seven rebounds, while Rachel Randleman had five points and four boards. The Raiders held the Wildcats to just 6-of-36 shooting from the field, including 1-of-11 from beyond the arc. The Cats finished 9-of-16 from the free throw line.
Thursday night at Chippewa Falls, the Raiders held the Cardinals to just eight first half points but only led 14-8 at the break before pulling away for a 45-23 victory.
Despite the slow start, Vadnais was pleased with how the Raiders took control as the game wore on, and credited senior captains Jonas and Hatfield with rallying the team.
“We struggled in the first half,” she said. “We just weren't hitting shots and they brought out a little bit of a different kind of a defense against us. And we went into halftime and I’m like, guys we’re fine. And then we go out and we win the game by 22 and hold them to 23 points. The leadership that Sophia and Audrey showed in that game just makes me feel good. Because when we're in crunch time, and we're in a battle, those two are going to be who’s leading us.”
Young scored a team-high 15 points in the win and Boily had 11 while Jonas finished with seven points and nine rebounds, Lewis scored seven points and Hatfield had five points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Raiders haven’t faced much adversity this year but Vadnais expects a challenge when Sun Prairie East comes to town this Saturday, Jan. 30 for a 3:30 p.m. tip-off. The Cardinals were ranked No. 4 in the preseason before being dropped from the poll when the first two months of their season were postponed due to Dane County COVID-19 restrictions. Saturday’s game will be just their third of the season.
“I wanted to schedule that game because I wanted to see how our girls respond to the physical style they play," Vadnais said. “It's going to be a really good challenge for us so I thought it would be a good game to schedule two weeks before playoffs start.”
The Raiders will host Menomonie Tuesday, Jan. 26, and Eau Claire Memorial Friday, Jan. 29, before Saturday’s matinee against Sun Prairie.
River Falls ends week with loss at Memorial
Following Tuesday’s loss to what River Falls coach Ian Sticht simply called, “a very good” Hudson team, Sticht said the Wildcats took some steps Friday night, Jan. 22, at Eau Claire Memorial but it wasn’t enough in a 35-29 loss to the Old Abes.
“We continue to make strides defensively with our communication, being in our gaps, and limiting teams to one shot,” he said. “Offensively we struggled in the first half scoring only 10 points. We are getting better at attacking other teams, but we are still too hesitant and are making it easy for other teams to defend us. In the second half we showed some flashes of our ability to attack and create great shots, but we have to find more consistency from all our guards.”
Strop led the Wildcats with 12 points and seven rebounds and Ella Peters scored seven points while Taylor Kasten had four points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot.
The Wildcats, now 3-9 overall, 3-5 in the Big Rivers Conference, hosted Eau Claire North Tuesday night, Jan. 26, and will host Ashland Saturday, Jan. 30, at 2:30 p.m.