Brad Kenote guards Antigo’s Jake Erickson during the first half of Thursday’s Great Northern Conference boys’ basketball game between Rhinelander and Antigo at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. Erickson was one of three Robins to score in double digits as No. 8 Antigo remained unbeaten on the season. (Bryan Rose/Lakeland Times)
12/24/2011 7:30:00 AM Too little, too late Hodags can't overcome slow start, lose to No. 8 Antigo
If the RHS boys' basketball team would have played as well in the first half Thursday as they did the second half, they would be celebrating a huge upset over Christmas.
Unfortunately for the Hodags that was not the case. Antigo finished the first half on a 13-0 run, led by 18 at halftime and held on to defeat Rhinelander 54-46 Thursday at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
The Hodags (4-4, 3-1 Great Northern) held the Robins to four points in the third quarter and scored 22 points in the fourth, but in the end the halftime deficit proved too much to overcome.
"I contribute our first half not so much to turnovers, like it was against East," coach Derek Lemmens said after the game. "We still had them, but we missed a lot of good shots and our defense was not as sharp as it needs to be."
Rhinelander had trimmed the gap to five points on Antigo (No. 10, Division 2, AP; No. 8, WSN), Following a Colton Volkmann 3-point play midway through he second quarter but, Jake Erickson answered with a triple that sparked a run that built Antigo's lead to 28-11 by halftime.
"We've ended halves poorly, even in the games we've won big," Lemmens noted. "Medford, we turned the ball over and gave up a layup at the buzzer and they went on a five or 7-0 run. We did it against East. We did it against Everest. We've done it against just about every team and we need to find a way to close these halves better so that we can come out with a little more momentum after halftime."
The Hodags ramped up the defensive intensity in the second half. Antigo (8-0, 4-0 Great Northern) was held scoreless until 3:02 remaining in the third when Andreas Ezer made a pair of free throws. Rhinelander outscored the Robins 13-4 in the third to trim the lead in half.
In the fourth quarter, despite the offense, the Hodags got no closer than nine points until an Adam Piasecki 3-pointer in the final seconds.
"We were a little more patient offensively and worked the ball inside," Lemmens said. "That was what we were trying to emphasize. I felt that we settled for the 3-point shot early in the first. When that's not falling, we have to start looking inside."
Antigo's 1-3-1 half court defense forced its share of turnovers and missed shots, but the Hodags only connected on one 3-pointer through the first three quarters and allowed three Robins to finish in double digits. Ezer led all scorers with 20 points, Jake Erickson had 15 and Mac Oreskovic had 10.
"(Antigo's an) excellent team," Lemmens said. "They play hard. They're incredibly smart, well coached and that's as good as it gets. I feel like that was a great test and these guys have to understand that they can play with them. They have to believe in themselves. I think our confidence is down and if we start believing in ourselves, we'll be a heck of a team."
Shane White led the Hodags in scoring again, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the final quarter. Volkmann scored nine points. No one else scored more than four in the losing cause.
Rhinelander will head to Eau Claire to take part in the Big Rivers/Wisconsin Valley Challenge. The Hodags will face Menomonie at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday and Eau Claire Memorial at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Both games will take place at Eau Claire North High School.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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