A 15-point unanswered run midway through the second half brought Chippewa Falls from way back into a tie game with six minutes to play.
The Cardinals had the momentum. Eau Claire North had its veterans ready to answer.
Crucial plays be Jack Kron and Noah Hanson in particular broke the deadlock and keyed the Huskies as they pulled away to a 63-53 win Friday night at the Doghouse.
“It wasn’t pretty,” North coach Todd Marks said. “But we came up with the plays when we needed them.”
In the super-balanced Big Rivers Conference race, North takes a share of the lead with a 4-2 record as six of the seven teams, including Chippewa Falls, battle it out within a game of each other.
“Once we got started again, we got our feeling back,” Jaelin Williams said of the Huskies wakeup call. “In this league, we feel we can beat anyone.”
North led 46-31 with 11:22 to play when the Cardinals blew red-hot. The rally was touched off by a layup from Bryce Daniels and 3-pointer by Thomas Robarge and capped by a short basket from Tyler Robarge with 6:38 to play. Suddenly, it was a 46-46 game.
“I just told the kids to keep their composure, there’s still seven minutes to play — a lot of game left,” Marks said. “I told them if they can get the ball in the right spot, they can score.”
Kron, the seasoned backcourt stabilizer, broke the tie with a solo free throw at the 5:57 mark, then followed with a 3-pointer 40 seconds later and the Huskies never trailed again.
After three free throws by Tyler Robarge brought the Redbirds back within one, it was Hanson’s turn.
The outside bomber struggled to get the ball all game under the close surveillance of Thomas Robarge but found himself free and drilled a back-breaking 3-pointer that made it 53-49 with 3:46 left.
“We lost Kron and Hanson and they made us pay,” Chippewa Falls coach Jason Proue said. “We lost them one time in the game.”
Kron and Tucker Dillon followed with baskets — Dillon on a pass from Kron for a layup — and when Banks hit two free throws with 1:28 left, it was 59-49 and too much of a hill for the Cardinals to climb.
The game was a seesaw affair in the first half until North broke away late with big baskets from Tucker Dillon and Williams, who scored nine of his 11 points in the first half.
The Huskies padded the 38-26 lead with two baskets to open the second half and it was 42-26 with the feel of a Huskies runaway when the Cardinals fought back.
“We were in foul trouble in the first half and we still felt good into the second half,” Proue said. “The way the guys play together and complement each other, we felt we could come back.”
Tyler Robarge, who finished with 13 points, saw a lot of bench time in foul trouble and that hurt the Cardinals.
“We took advantage of their foul trouble,” Marks said. “And we needed every bit of it.”
Banks scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half, while Kron had 13, Williams 11 and Hanson 10 in a balanced Huskies attack.
Williams drew praise from Marks for a fine game. Williams said, “I felt I had to step up and do my job.”
The Huskies turned the ball over six times, but Chippewa Falls offset that with a 31-26 advantage on the boards.
Daniels scored 15, Tyler Robarge 13 and Thomas Robarge 12 to lead the Cards, who virtually matched North in shooting from the field.
“Being down like we were and then coming back, you just can’t ask for much else,” Proue said.
At 3-3, the Cardinals remain in the title chase just one game back.