There are not going be many easy nights in the Big Rivers this season.
Conference favorite Menomonie found that out Tuesday night as it held off a furious comeback from Eau Claire Memorial for a 45-44 victory in the conference opener for both teams at the Eagles Nest.
“That’s the BRC right there for you,” Mustangs coach Storm Harmon said.
Junior Lindsey Johnson made two huge plays late, getting loose for a layup off an in-bounds play to put Menomonie (2-1, 1-0) up two and, after Regan Appleby’s putback of a missed free throw tied it back up, getting in the lane to draw a foul with less than 6 seconds left. Johnson hit the second and a long heave by Memorial was off the mark.
The Mustangs were up six with less than 4 minutes to go, but the Old Abes (0-3, 0-1) just wouldn’t go away. Sydney Hazuga went to the floor for a loose ball, forcing a turnover, and Appleby knocked down a 3 to tie the game at 42.
“I was proud of the way the kids fought through some adversity,” Memorial coach Brandon Fanning said, “but for the third game in a row we dug a big hole with a lack of focus and a lack of attention to detail.”
Junior Kylie Mogen had 14 points — including four 3s — in the opening half for the Mustangs.
“I worked this summer on my 3s, because I really want to extend my outside game so it’s easier for my inside game,” Mogen said. “And then it opens up the floor more for everybody else.”
Mogen also did an admirable job on Memorial’s 6-foot-1 senior Jada Biermeier, who had a game-high 20 points but had to work hard for every one.
“The points that she did score she deserved, but I thought we stopped her inside game pretty good,” Mogen said.
If Mogen was the starter for Menomonie, senior Tyra Boettcher was the closer. The Minnesota State-Mankato recruit had 13 in the second half and 19 for the game.
Appleby had nine points and Jessica Massey nine to help spark the comeback for the Old Abes. Both had only one point in the opening 18 minutes.
The first half saw a five-plus minute stretch in which neither team scored.
But even if it wasn’t pretty, it’s still a huge win for a program on the rise.
“I can’t even remember the last time Menomonie beat Memorial at Memorial,” Mogen said.