Caden Boser capped his big night with a dunk in the final two minutes.
He hung on the rim too long. Whistle. Technical foul.
“I wasn’t celebrating, I thought there was someone under me,” the 6-7 junior said. “They called me for pulling up my knees.”
He could well have been celebrating. But who cared?
Eau Claire Memorial was on the verge of a 64-53 win over River Falls in a battle for the Big Rivers Conference lead Tuesday night at the Eagles Nest.
And it was Boser’s dominating play that powered the win. He put up a personal high 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and River Falls had no match for him.
“He’s tough to defend on a regular night but when he steps back and shoots the deep 3s, it makes it difficult,” River Falls coach Zac Campbell said. “And when he went to the basket, his spin moves were tough to stop.”
The Wildcats (7-4, 3-2) bolted out to a 19-9 lead midway through the first half when Boser came alive. He scored nine straight points and the Old Abes were able to gain a tie at 24 at the intermission.
He scored 19 of his points in the second half as Memorial pulled away.
“There is different pressure every game and tonight I had a good feeling,” Boser said. “I feel I’ve improved most on my inside game with body control and athleticism. The weight room has helped.”
In the wild and close Big Rivers title fight, Memorial moved out in front with just one loss but Eau Claire North, Hudson and Chippewa Falls along with River Falls are hot on the Abes’ heels with just two losses.
“We don’t pay any attention to the standings, we treat each game as an individual game,” Memorial coach Chad Brieske said. “There are ebbs and flows along the way and the team that stays steady and consistent will come out on top.”
Campbell agreed that it’s early and still up for grabs.
“Memorial is the team to beat right now,” he said. “But it’s wide open. We’ve struggled a little lately but we hope to be in there.”
River Falls, a young, rangy and talented team, was led by 6-3 sophomore Zac Johnson, who scored 23 points. He just couldn’t get enough help from his mates.
“Our activity was good when we came out, but as the game progressed we lost it,” Campbell said. “But you have to credit Memorial, they knocked down their shots.”
Despite Boser’s huge game, it was still a good team win. Memorial got all but two of its points from its starters with Tanner Linduski supporting Boser with 13 points. Ethan Van Grunsven contributed seven and Simon Larson six. The Abes shot 57 percent from the floor.
Brieske felt that defense played a key role in the win.
“We made them work for everything,” he said. “The kids have bought into defense mentally.”
Memorial (7-3, 4-1) broke the halftime tie quickly as Altherelle Robbins and Larson hit baskets. Boser followed with a 3-pointer, 3-point play and another 3 from outside. Two baskets by Johnson closed it to 37-34 but two more Boser baskets sandwiched around a Van Grunsven 3-pointer built the margin over 10 points.
The bad news for Memorial came in the loss of 6-5 starter Nathan Hau, who scored 22 points in the season opener. He injured a knee in the third game, had surgery this week and is out for the season.
MEMORIAL 64, RIVER FALLS 53
River Falls — FGM-FGA FTM-FTA TP: 6 0-0 5. Zac Johnson 9-17 3-4 22, Adam Feyereisen 1-2 2-2 4, JT Dougherty 2-5 0-0 4, Taylor Tirrel 3-9 0-0 8, Mike Vitt 1-4 2-4 4, Mike Johnson 1-2 2-2 4, Liam Dougherty 2-4 0-0 4, Payton Flood 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-45 9-10 53.
Memorial – Caden Boser 13-19 3-3 32, Tanner Linduski 6-13 0-2 13, Ethan Van Grunsven 1-3 4-4 7, Altherelle Robbins 2-3 0-0 4, Connor Stoik 0-1 2-2 2, Landon Van Grunsven 0-0 0-0 0, Mekhi Shaw 0-1 0-0 0, Duncan McKinley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-42 11-14 64.
Halftime: Tie 24. 3-point shots: RF 4-16 (Tirrel 2-6, Z. Johnson 1-6, Payton Flood 1-2, JT Dougherty 0-1, Liam Dougherty 0-1), Memorial 5-12 (Boser 3-5, Landuski 1-2, E. Van Grunsven 1-2). Rebounds: RF 24 (Feyereisen 6, L. Dougherty 5), Memorial 23 (Boser 16). Total fouls: RF 15, Memorial 14. Turnovers: RF 12, Memorial 9. Officials: Travis Parr, Brent Christianson, Mike Dewyre. Records: RF 7-4, 3-2, Memorial 7-3 4-1.