Boyceville’s Luke Knudtson knows how to close out a season.
The Spring Valley Cardinals were visibly flustered by Knudtson’s performance Thursday night as he pounded the paint for a staggering 39 points in Thursday’s regular-season closer at Boyceville High School.
Knudston helped lead the Bulldog team (6-15, 3-11) to a 68-60 victory over the Cardinals (12-10, 8-6), to finish up their regular season on a positive note.
That’s all coach Ben Luer could have hoped for in what turned out to be a tough last season as the Boyceville boys’ basketball head coach.
“We needed that one. Our seniors have tried hard all year, and they deserved one as the other ones have not gone our way this year, close ones,” Luer said. “There’s some teams that probably at this point in the year — if their record is bad — they kind of fall apart and these guys haven’t done that all year ... for four years they haven’t done that. I appreciated them continuing to listen and sticking together as a team.”
Thursday’s triumph over the Cardinals snapped a four-game losing streak, last winning against Elmwood/Plum City on Feb. 2.
Bryce Boda opened up scoring for the Bulldogs by draining a pair of 3-pointers from the exact spot — slightly to the left of the top of the key. Knudtson chipped in two doubles right under the net for an early 10-7 lead.
Spring Valley found early success at the net as well, sinking three 2-pointers and a 3-pointer to keep the Bulldogs on their toes.
A Boda steal was returned for two points, assisting Jaden Reisimer with his first basket of the night.
Knudtson scored the next seven points for Boyceville, connecting on three inside basket and a charity shot. Cooper Boesl and Knudtson closed out the first half with a combined 10 points to head into halftime with a 31-23 advantage.
The second half opened up with each team draining a 3-pointer and two 2-pointers. Boesl went to the line to score one point after being fouled on an attempted shot on an offensive rebound. That sparked an 11-4 run for the Bulldogs, extending their lead to 50-34 with just under nine minutes to go.
The Cardinals hit a triple, followed up with another three points on a trip to the line for one point and a rebound for two points. But the fouls were racking up rapidly for Spring Valley and the Bulldogs added another eight points on freebies, sustaining a 10-11 point lead with just a few minutes remaining in regulation.
Now really on the ropes, Spring Valley produced a rally which got them back within six points, but as the clock ticked away, they were forced to foul, sending Knudtson to the line for the last two points of the game.
Knudtson’s 39 points all came from the inside and free throw line, connecting on 13 field goals and missed just one of his 13 freebies. Knudtson also led in rebounds with 14, including four offensive grabs.
Boda came in at nine points on the night, including two early 3-pointers and a double with a charity bucket towards the tail end of the game.
Boesl added one field goal and went 3-for-6 at the line to finish with eight points and had eight rebounds. Bryce Larson and Reisimer each chipped in five points, and Jayson Gonzales wrapped up Bulldog scoring with two points.
The Bulldogs went 19-for-26 overall at the free throw line while the Cardinals connected on 10 of their 13 charity shots.
Boyceville earned a No. 12 seed meets with No. 5 Cumberland (15-6) Tuesday at Cumberland High School in the opening round of the WIAA Division 4 Regional playoffs. The winner will move on to the quarterfinals to play either No. 13 St. Croix Falls (4-17) or No. 4 Cameron (16-5) on Friday, March 2.
“We are going to have to have our best game of the year to beat them,” Luer said of the Cumberland team. “We are going to have to shoot well and really defend ... they have a lot of good players.”