CHIPPEWA FALLS — Spencer Page doesn’t need much space to get his shot off. And Rice Lake doesn’t need much time to break a game wide open.
The Warriors exploded for one of their trademark game-changing runs late in the first half Thursday night. That, a hot-shooting night from Page and some major contributions from the bench were enough to carry Rice Lake to a 78-67 victory over Chippewa Falls.
“Just energy,” said Page, who scored a game-high 30 points. “That was our biggest thing. We came out strong in this game.”
The win was a big one for the Warriors (14-3, 6-2). It kept them tied for first place in the Big Rivers standings and avenged their 54-40 loss to Chippewa Falls on Dec. 8 in Rice Lake. That was an off night for Rice Lake. Thursday, the Warriors were on, particularly at the end of the first half when they ripped off a 20-3 run over a four-minute stretch. That turned a three-point deficit into a 14-point halftime lead.
“That was the big difference in the game tonight,” Rice Lake coach Kevin Orr said. “Other than that, it was a back-and-forth dogfight.”
Page, a 6-foot-4 senior who will play for UW-Eau Claire next season, knocked down four 3-pointers and showed off his full offensive arsenal. Ultra-athletic 6-foot-3 forward Averie Habas added 18 points. And they got a ton of help from the Rice Lake bench.
The Warriors reserves were pressed into extended action in the first half when starting guards Evan Tillung and Peyton Buckley each picked up three fouls.
Their teammates were up to the challenge. That 20-3 spurt did feature the likes of Page and Habas. But the bench’s fingerprints also were all over it. Collin Hanson kicked it off. Logan Severson hit a 3-pointer and later added another bucket. John Kohler scored five consecutive points. The ball kept moving and the Warriors kept running. And when they hit the locker room, they were in control of the game.
Severson and Kohler each finished with eight points.
“Our bench was huge tonight,” Page said. “They always have been in the past. That’s a big thing for us. We have great guys on the bench.”
Chippewa Falls (10-7, 4-5) got a strong all-around game from Bryce Daniels. The 6-foot-3 senior guard scored 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out five assists. Tyler Robarge scored 12 points, Thomas Robarge added 11 points and Peyton Rogers-Schmidt had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
The Cardinals just couldn’t recover from that typical Warriors surge to close the first half.
“Rice Lake’s a really good team, a really explosive team,” Chippewa Falls coach Jason Proue said. “They always make Rice Lake runs. We lost focus for just that four minutes, and that was the game right there.”