CHIPPEWA FALLS — Seemingly every time down the floor, someone different scored for Eau Claire Memorial.
When Chippewa Falls found ways to slow down one Old Abe, another would rise to the occasion.
That depth proved to be key as Memorial built up a large lead midway through and held on late for a 72-58 win over Chippewa Falls on Friday. Four different Old Abes scored in double figures, led by Tanner Linduski’s 18 points.
Caden Boser was close behind with 17 points, and Altherelle Robbins and Ethan Van Grunsven added 14 apiece.
“It was a really well-rounded attack from us,” Boser said. “I think everybody had a good game, all of us that played. I think that’s the key, our depth. That’s what we have over other teams.”
The win pushed Memorial into a tie for first place in the Big Rivers Conference along with River Falls. The loss knocked Chippewa Falls from its perch atop the conference standings.
Tyler Robarge poured in 22 points for the Cardinals in defeat. Alex Nelson tallied 15 of his own.
Memorial held a 17-point lead with eight minutes left to play in the second half, but a quick 10-0 run by Chippewa Falls cut it to single digits with four minutes on the clock. The Cardinals couldn’t get over the final hump though, as the Old Abes made enough plays down the stretch to grab the win.
“We got ourselves in a little bit of a hole, but I’m really proud of the way the guys battled back,” Chippewa Falls coach Jason Proue said. “That just speaks to the character of the guys. Never once did I think they would fold in and pack it up.”
Memorial started the first half hot, but both squads would go on prolonged runs as the lead see-sawed back and forth. The Old Abes opened the game with an 11-2 run, with a ferocious alley-oop dunk by Peyton Rogers-Schmidt serving as the lone bright spot for the Cardinals early on.
But Chippewa Falls rattled off eight straight points – six coming from Robarge – to get back up to speed, and eventually seized the lead at 22-21 on a three-point play by Robarge with seven minutes left in the half.
That lead wouldn’t last long. A 3-pointer by Linduski started a 16-4 run in the final six minutes of the half to give the Old Abes a 37-29 lead going into the break. Robbins scored six in that span with some smooth finishes around the hoop.
That momentum carried over into the second half, as the Old Abes opened with a 13-4 run to put some distance between them and the Cardinals.
“The way we started that second half, that’s a case of a team getting hot,” Memorial coach Chad Brieske said. “I’m proud of my players. We had good looks, we moved the ball really well. When you move the ball well and everyone’s touching it and feeling good, it’s a lot easier to get a run like that going.”
A basket by Chippewa Falls’ Joe Reuter cut the lead to 58-51 with 4:01 remaining, but Van Grunsven, Linduski and Robbins were big down the stretch to ensure that it never got any closer. Van Grunsven scored three points after Reuter’s bucket to restore the lead to double-digits, and Linduski added eight points in the final two minutes of the contest.
In addition to having big nights on the offensive side of the floor, both Boser and Robbins were forces on defense. Boser swatted shots regularly, while Robbins’ handful of steals served as catalysts for transition opportunities.
“We couldn’t match their size, so we had to give great pressure on the perimeter to try to keep them from catching it deep in the paint. (Robbins) is the tone-setter for that with his ability to defend different guys,” Brieske said.
That defense helped spark some of the long runs Memorial went on.
“It all starts on the defensive end,” Boser said. “Defense leads to offense, so when you’re feeling good on defense, you’re feeling good on offense.”
Both teams face River Falls in their next game: Memorial on Tuesday and Chippewa Falls on Jan. 11.
Memorial 72, Chippewa Falls 58
Memorial (6-3, 3-1): Altherelle Robbins 14, Landen Van Grunsven 1, Connor Stoik 4, Ethan Van Grunsven 14, Tanner Linduski 18, Simon Larson 4, Caden Boser 17.
Chippewa Falls (4-7, 3-2): Alex Nelson 15, Nolan Hutzler 3, Joe Reuter 6, Peyton Rogers-Schmidt 12, Tyler Robarge 22.
3-pointers: Memorial 9 (Boser 5, Linduski 2, E. Van Grunsven 2); Chippewa Falls 3 (Nelson, Hutzler, Reuter).
Halftime score: Memorial 37-29.