Senior night couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for Simon Larson.
The Eau Claire Memorial senior emphatically announced his presence on the court on Monday, scoring the Old Abes’ first 10 points of the game.
Fellow senior Connor Stoik didn’t wait long to get in on the action either. He poured in 10 points in a three-minute span not long after Larson’s run.
It was all part of a particularly strong first half that saw Memorial build up a comfortable lead before holding on in the second half for an 87-70 win over Rice Lake at Memorial.
“It was senior night, a lot of emotions were running. It definitely helped drive (my start) a little bit,” Larson said. “And then Connor got the other 10. It was like it was meant to be.”
Junior Caden Boser led all scorers with 23 points for Memorial, while Stoik and Larson finished with 20 and 14, respectively. Cole Halvorson and Logan Severson had 18 apiece for Rice Lake.
The two squads were level until the Old Abes got a 3-pointer from Stoik to jumpstart a 10-3 run and establish a 26-17 lead with seven minutes until the halftime break. The lead stretched to as large as 15 when Boser got a rim-grazing dunk to fall through contact and converted the 3-point play with his ensuing free throw with under a minute left in the half.
Memorial closed the first half on a 7-0 run. Boser scored 10 points in the period despite not entering the game until there were under nine minutes remaining until halftime.
The Old Abes led by as many as 25 in the second half, but a strong run of play from Rice Lake toward the tail end of the game trimmed the lead to nine at one point.
Memorial closed the door by making six of its final seven free throw attempts down the stretch.
“Rice Lake likes to play up-tempo too, so we figured they’d probably get into a little bit of a rhythm against us,” Memorial coach Chad Brieske said. “We talked about how to close a game, and we’ve got to clean some things up in that way down the stretch.
“But I thought our guys did a good job of withstanding the pressure that Rice Lake hit us with.”
The Warriors had a stretch in the second half where their last four made field goals were all from 3-point territory, with Halvorson hitting a pair in that span.
Rice Lake eventually went on a 15-5 run with under seven minutes to play to cut the lead to 77-68, but couldn’t get any closer.
“We tried not to let them get too comfortable from 3,” Stoik said. “And tried to get good possessions, long possessions (ourselves) to get some layups.”
While Larson scored Memorial’s first 10 points of the game, Peyton Buckley was the source of the Warriors’ first nine. Buckley finished with 16 points.
With the win, Memorial kept its slim hopes alive in the Big Rivers Conference title chase. The Old Abes are one and a half games behind leader Hudson in the standings and would need the Raiders to lose both of their remaining games while winning their final game to have a shot at the championship.
Next up for the Old Abes is another shot at intracity rival Eau Claire North on Thursday. The Huskies won a 62-59 thriller over Memorial in mid-January to take the first game of the season series.
“There’s no bigger game than an Eau Claire North game this Thursday,” Brieske said. “This is a great way for us to go into it, and now we’ve got two days of prep to get ready for a rivalry game.”
Memorial 87, Rice Lake 70
Rice Lake (8-10, 1-10): Peyton Buckley 16, Collin Hanson 14, Logan Severson 18, Zach Widdes 2, Cole Halvorson 18, Nolan Rowe 2.
Memorial (12-7, 7-4): Altherelle Robbins 8, Mekhi Shaw 2, Connor Stoik 20, Ethan Van Grunsven 3, Tanner Linduski 17, Simon Larson 14, Caden Boser 23.
3-pointers: Rice Lake 9 (Halvorson 4, Hanson 2, Severson 2, Buckley), Memorial 5 (Stoik 2, Van Grunsven, Larson, Boser).
Halftime: Memorial 46-31.