Points were hard to come by for both the River Falls and Chi-Hi boys basketball teams on Tuesday night.
They were just much harder for the Cardinals to find.
River Falls defeated Chi-Hi 46-35 at Chi-Hi to move into first place in the Big Rivers Conference. The Cardinals struggled to put points on the board in a gritty and, at times, sloppy game. They shot 40 percent from the field, including a 2 of 13 performance from 3-point range.
“(River Falls) played tough defensively, but I thought we could have knocked down some of those shots that we took,” Chi-Hi coach Jason Proue said. “We’re a better shooting team than that.”
The first few minutes of the game were indicative of how the rest of the contest would go. The Wildcats (7-5, 4-2) opened the game on a 9-0 run, and Chi-Hi (8-4, 3-2) didn’t score until the 12:21 mark, over five and a half minutes after the opening tip.
Peyton Rogers-Schmidt finally put the Cardinals on the board with a nice finish, but it did little to get the offense rolling. After 10 minutes of play in the first half, Chi-Hi had just six points and was already facing a 10-point deficit.
“It’s something that shouldn’t affect us and hasn’t affected us,” Proue said of the slow start. “We’ve done a really nice job of playing hard and playing good defensively and offensively no matter what happens on the previous possession. This one, it might have settled in a little bit where we miss a couple shots, turn the ball over a couple times and it became contagious a little bit.”
River Falls pulled out to a 27-10 halftime lead thanks to the scoring exploits of Jaxon Knotek. The leading scorer in the Big Rivers entering Tuesday’s game scored the final eight points of the half to put Chi-Hi in a big hole.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 36-14 out of the break with a 9-0 run after a pair of baskets by Chi-Hi to start the half.
The Cardinals finally got a rhythm going midway through the second half. They went on a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to 42-29 thanks to five points by Tyler Robarge and four by Bryce Daniels, along with baskets by Luke Franz and Hopper Sillman.
“It all had to do with our effort, our attitude and our toughness. We started playing Chippewa basketball the way we’ve played all year. Everything else kind of feeds off of that. Everything starts with our attitude and how hard we play, and we go from there,” Proue said.
The run came too late though, and by the time it ended the Cardinals had just under four minutes to close a 13-point gap. A pair of baskets by River Falls ensured that a comeback wouldn’t happen, despite 3-pointers by Chi-Hi’s Joe Reuter and Jay Hall in the final minute.
Robarge led Chi-Hi with nine points, and Daniels added eight. Rogers-Schmidt scored six for the Cardinals. Knotek led all scorers with 19 points.
River Falls now holds a half game lead over several teams in the Big Rivers, including Chi-Hi. The Cardinals travel to Eau Claire North on Friday to take on the Huskies, who are 7-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
“It’s done. We can’t control anything that happened in the past, we’re just ready to move on,” Proue said of Tuesday’s loss. “Flush this one, remember how it feels, but get back to playing Chippewa basketball.”