Victory is never a sure thing, even when a team is up by 15 points at halftime.

This is what the Menomonie boys’ basketball team learned Tuesday, when they gave up a 15-point first half lead to fall by just one point, 52-51, to Eau Claire Memorial at Menomonie High School.

Menomonie head coach Matt Riley said he was impressed with how well the team played in the first half.

“We can out with a lot of energy on the defensive end and moved the ball well on offense to get great shots. ... In the second, we just had too many missed opportunities. They also hurt us on the offensive glass, which was a big factor.”

Both teams came out the gate swift and sharp, but it was Old Abes that jumped out to a 7-3 lead just minutes into the first half. However, a pair of 3-pointers from Menomonie’s Jace Kressin helped pull the Mustangs away 12-9 seven minutes in, a lead which they would extend and hold until late in the second half.

The Mustangs were on point both offensively and defensively in the first half, making shots from all angles of the court. As hard as Old Abes tried, their shots often fell short, or bounced around on the rim before falling into the hands of a Mustang.

Meanwhile, Kressin dropped in a total of four 3-pointers in the first half, while Dylan Boecker and Brendan Johnston took their opportunities to the glass for a pair of 2-pointers each. Davis Barthen scored the final shot of the first half, a 3-pointer that set them up with a comfortable 34-15 lead at halftime.

What had gone well for the Mustangs in the first half now turned in the favor of Old Abes, and what had gone poorly for Old Abes turned around to bite the Mustangs. It didn’t take long into the second half to see that Memorial had stepped up their game.

Memorial’s comeback started after a 2-pointer and two 3-pointers sandwiched between a pair of charity shots squished Menomonie’s lead nearly in half just minutes into the half. Memorial continued to shoot hot, going on a 12-4 run to cut Menomonie’s lead to 43-38 with 10:15 to go.

A 2-pointer from Menomonie’s Sam Zbornik bumped their lead up by seven, but a 3-pointer from Memorial set it back to four. After a string of unsuccessful offensive chances for the Mustangs, Old Abes caught up with another 2-pointer and 3-pointer to take their first lead of the game at 46-45.

The lead flip-flopped in the remaining seven minutes of regulation. Menomonie took the lead right back when Jake Ebert sank a pair of free throws. Memorial went to the glass for two points, followed by a pair of freebies to take a 50-47 lead with just under three minutes to go.

Kressin then went to the line to shoot bonus, sinking two and making it a one-point game yet again. Boecker took the Mustangs ahead by one with a 2-point basket, but Memorial answered right back, scoring what ended up being the final basket of the game.

Following the game, Riley noted that their attacks on the basket tapered out in the second half, which played a large part in the loss.

“We need to keep attacking the basket like we did in the first half and not settle for jumpers,” he said. “Defensively, we need to rebound better, contest shots and communicate as a team to be in the proper position.”

Kressin led the Mustangs in scoring with 20 points on the night, making four 3-pointers and a 2-pointer in the first half and two more 2-pointers in the second half. He shot 2-for-3 at the line.

Boecker added nine points for Menomonie, two 2-pointers in each half and one charity basket. Barthen and Johnston each contributed five points apiece while Ethan Wurtzel and Zbornik chipped in four apiece.

Menomonie looks to use Tuesday’s loss as fire to bounce back against Chippewa Falls at home Friday night during a doubleheader with the girls’ team.

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Dunn County News reporter

Laura covers local/prep sports as well as school-related and general news in Dunn County. She joined The Dunn County News in October 2016. She can be contacted directly at laura.giammattei@lee.net or (715) 279-6721.

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