Eau Claire Memorial got out to a seven-point lead two minutes into the second half.
North, bidding for an outright Big Rivers Conference championship, had to do something in a hurry.
Coach Todd Marks did.
“Memorial tried to speed us up early, so I decided to try something else,” Marks said. “We went into a 1-3-1, and it changed the momentum.”
What it did was limit the Old Abes to just eight points the rest of the way as the Huskies stormed off to a 55-39 win in the 144th intracity game Tuesday night at the Doghouse.
It was a rare repeat championship for the 16-3 Huskies, giving them a 9-2 record and two-game lead with one game to play.
“I love this team,” Huskies floor director Jack Kron said, reflecting on the conference championship. “We’ve played a lot of games together and have a lot of chemistry.”
It all started for the Huskies on Kron’s 3-point basket with 15 minutes, 40 seconds to play.
“It came off a scramble play, and sometimes that’s all it takes,” Memorial coach Chad Brieske said. “Give North credit, we were playing good defense.”
It triggered an unanswered 12-point run and a 22-1 lightning strike overall. With a 46-32 lead with just over four minutes to play, it was all over.
“Of all the great teams we’ve had here at North, this is something special,” Marks said. “Two in a row in a league this tough. I’m so proud of them.”
Kron, who had only one basket and two points in the first half, once again was the man of the hour for the Huskies. The 3-pointer was his only basket of the second half, but he went to the free-throw line to make 11 of 12 and finish as the game’s top scorer with 16 points.
“North is outstanding,” Brieske said. “I’ve said all along that they have the best backcourt in the state. We knew we had a tough task, and we responded. It’s just that North is so good.”
Noah Hanson and Dalton Banks, the other members of the Huskies trio of killer bees, scored 14 points each, also getting the major share of their points in the second half.
Memorial, in attempt to repeat its 55-52 win over North last month at the Eagles Nest, did play strong defense, limiting the Huskies to 13 baskets in 38 attempts.
But offensively, the Old Abes were forced into 17 turnovers and saw North smother their inside game, limiting 6-foot-7 Caden Boser and 6-foot-5 Cormac Sampson to just four field goals and a combined total of 16 points, only five coming in the second half and those on free throws.
“When Jack hit the 3, it cut the lead to four, but more important the 1-3-1 got us more active, giving us a little more bounce,” Marks said.
Memorial seemed to have ideas of a repeat win when it outscored North 11-3 in the final minutes of the first half, taking a 26-24 lead. The Abes enlarged it to 31-24 in the early minutes of the second half on a drive-in basket and 3-pointer by Bryce Burlingame, who led Memorial with 12 points.
That’s when North’s defense changed the game.
“The 1-3-1 was a momentum-builder,” Kron said. “We were able to block out their big bodies inside and get rebounds.”
Both teams shot 13-for-38 from the field, but the Huskies held a commanding 22-7 margin from the line, making 19 of 25 in the second half when the Abes were forced to foul.
Sampson had 11 rebounds and Boser nine for Memorial, but the teams wound up in a deadlock on the boards.