Trailing by 13 at the half without star Caden Boser active, it would have been easy for Eau Claire Memorial to pack it in against Hudson.
The Old Abes appeared to be no match for one of the Big Rivers’ premier teams in the early going Tuesday night. But all that changed during the halftime break.
“There was great leadership in the locker room from the guys,” Memorial coach Chad Brieske said. “Ethan Van Grunsven and Tanner Linduski just rallied the guys and we kept our heads up.”
Just 10 minutes into the second half and Memorial found itself down just four points thanks to six 3s and stingy Old Abe defense. Unfortunately for the Memorial faithful, that was as close as the Old Abes would get, falling 77-69 to Hudson at Memorial.
“We have to tip our caps to Eau Claire Memorial tonight, those kids played their hearts out and really had us on the ropes,” Hudson coach John Dornfeld said. “We had to make some plays at the end and thankfully we did, but they had a really inspired performance, it was cool to watch.”
It was an incredible rally from the Old Abes, who outscored the Raiders 44-39 after halftime and hung around until the very end thanks to lights out 3-point shooting.
“We all got together and realized we need to attack the rim and play together because when we play together, all five of us, we’re a pretty good basketball team,” Van Grunsven said.
The rally was capped by a step-back, ankle-breaking 3-pointer from Mekhi Shaw that left his Raider defender on his knees.
“That was awesome,” Van Grunsven said. “I ain’t never seen anything like that.”
The Memorial bench erupted as Shaw’s three made it 57-53, but the Raiders returned fire with a 3 of their own and hit 10 of 11 free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory.
“I think our boys got into a lull feeling like they could put it away in the first few minutes and be done for the night,” Dornfeld said. “So I think a little bit of underestimating maybe of what Memorial had to bring and then I think they got the wake-up call because Memorial came on like gangbusters.”
The effort was made more impressive with Boser inactive for unspecified reasons. His absence allowed Van Grunsven, Linduski and Shaw to shine as the trio all reached double-figures.
“If we have Caden it’s a different ball game,” Van Grunsven said, “but at the end of the day we still had opportunities to win this game and you have to give credit to Hudson, they worked so hard and they took advantage of the opportunities.”
Van Grunsven set a career high with 20 points and hit four 3s in the game.
Despite the loss, Briske was impressed by his team’s performance.
“I thought we battled really hard, the kids played their tails off and I really liked the resiliency that we showed,” he said. “Sometimes you have a game like tonight where the score doesn’t go as you want it to, but I think we walked off the court having given the best version of ourselves.”
For Hudson, the victory coupled with North’s loss to Chippewa Falls on Tuesday moved the teams into a three-way tie atop the Big Rivers.
“It’s always better to be there than further down the standings, but there is so much more of the season to go,” Dornfield said. “The Big Rivers conference right now, especially in the top six teams, anyone can beat anybody, so any win teams get the rest of the way, teams are going to feel really good about.”
Though the Old Abes are still looking to turn things around after a 3-8 start, the team’s loss against an impressive Raiders team showed the kind of talent they have.
“We’ve gone through a slump these past couple games, we’re really just trying to work together and figure it out,” Van Grunsven said. “It’s highs and lows, right now we’re going through a low, but we’ll be up top soon.”
Things won’t get any easier as Memorial heads across town to take on North at 8 p.m. on Friday.
“We’re going to play hard and try to put North into some different types of positions,” Briske said. “We’ll let the ball bounce where it may and hopefully we can get a win.”
Boser is expected to be back and the game should be a big one.
Hudson 77, Eau Claire Memorial 69
Hudson (9-1, 4-1): Brandon Moeri 11, Luke Healy 21, Cole Jacobson 5, Carter Herink 6, Brock Welle 11, Charlie Neuenschwander 23.
Memorial (3-8, 2-3): Mekhi Shaw 15, Altherelle Robbins 2, Will Boser 7, Ethan Van Grunsven 20, Tanner Linduski 19, Nolan Miller 2, Devin Butler 4.
3-point goals: Hudson 8 (Moeri 3, Healy, Jacobson, Herink 2, Welle); Memorial 11 (Shaw 3, Boser, Van Grunsven 4, Linduski 3).
Halftime: Hudson 38-25.