Eau Claire Memorial was able to handle the second half pressure.
The Old Abes fought off a Menomonie surge that closed the gap to two in the second half and was able to make key baskets down the stretch for a 61-52 win in a Big Rivers Conference opener Friday night at the Eagles Nest.
Altherelle Robbins made two crucial free throws with 6:36 to play to stretch the Memorial lead to four and the Abes pulled away from that point.
“When Menomonie made its run, we did a good job of stopping them,” Memorial coach Chad Brieske said. “Everybody contributed and we stayed together to play as a team.”
After Robbins dropped in the two big free throws, Caden Boser had a 3-point play and Nathan Hau made two free throws to stretch the lead back to 48-39 with 5:28 to go.
Menomonie didn’t go away. Davis Barthen hit a 3-pointer but the Mustangs could come no closer than six the rest of the way.
“In the first half, we let them dictate the tempo and we couldn’t run our offense,’ Menomonie coach Matt Riley said. “In the second half, we battled back within two or three but couldn’t turn it around.
“When we got within two, we got some open shots but we couldn’t put them down.”
Memorial got 17 points from 6-foot-7 Boser and 10, including eight from the foul stripe, from 6-foot-5 Hau. But the Mustangs made them work for their points.
Boser was a one-man horse on the boards for the Abes, pulling 16 and leading the team to a 39-34 advantage.
Robbins, the 5-8 junior transfer from Duluth, added 11 points and Ethan Van Grunsven scored nine, including three big points when the Mustangs threatened in the second half.
“Robbins played well,” Brieske said. “He came here from Duluth and he fits right in with the team.
Sam Zbornik, a 6-foot-5 forward, led the Mustangs with 15 points, making seven of 10 from the line. He also pulled six rebounds along with Jace Kressin. Kressin, the team’s leading scorer over the past two years, was limited to just three field shots and one point.
“That was a credit to (Connor) Stoik and (Simon) Larson,” Brieske pointed out. “Kressin fouled them both out but they did a good job on him.”
Memorial took the lead midway through the first half and made it 27-22 at halftime.
The Abes built the lead to eight before Menomonie fought back, thanks mainly to the work of Zbornik and Barthen, who scored all eight of his points in the second half.
The Mustangs also got nine points from Ethan Wurtzel and eight from Jake Ebert.
MEMORIAL 61, MENOMONIE 52
Menomonie — FGM-FGA FTM-FTA TP: Jace Kressin 0-3 1-2 1, Sam Sleichert 1-2 2-2 4, Dylan Boecker 1-5 0-0 2, Jake Ebert 4-12 0-0 8, Sam Zbornik 4-7 7-10 15, Ethan Wurtzel 2-7 3-4 9, Davis Barthen 2-3 3-4 8, Jed Ogea 0-1 0-0 0, Brock Thornton 1-1 0-1 3, Dvaunte Parker 1-3 0-0 2 .Totals 16-45 16-23 52.
Memorial — Caden Boser 7-17 2-3 17, Nathan Hau 1-4 8-14 10, Ethan Van Grunsven 3-6 3-5 9, Simon Larson 2-3 0-0 4, Altherelle Robbins 4-6 3-6 11, Connor Stoik 1-2 0-0 3, Tanner Linduski 2-8 0-0 5, Colin Dueringer 1-1 0-0 2, Jovandas Crowder 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 16-28 61.
Halftime: Memorial 27-22. 3-point goals: Menomonie 4-15 (Wurtzel 2-7, Thornton 1-1, Barthen 1-2, Kressin 0-1, Ebert 0-1, Ogea 0-1, Parker 0-2), Memorial 3-13 (Stoik 1-2, Linduski 1-4, Boser 1-6, Van Gtrunsven 0-1). Rebounds: Menomonie 34 (Kressin 6, Zbornik 6), Memorial 39 (Boser 16,). Total fouls: Menomonie 21, Memorial 23. Fouled out: Memorial: Stoik, Larson. Turnovers: Menomonie 11, Memorial 14. Officials: Louie Eisenman, Mark Gotta, Sayer Jackslon. Records: Menomonie 1-1, 0-1. Memorial 2-0 1-0.