Northland Pines’ Nolan Lurvey (11) steals the ball from Rhinelander’s Ross Skeen during the first half of a Great Northern Conference boys’ basketball game at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Friday, Dec. 6. Rhinelander committed 21 turnovers and allowed Northland Pines to shoot 54% from the field in a 75-71 loss. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
12/10/2019 7:30:00 AM Hodags fade late, fall to Pines 75-71
The 20-3 campaign the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team posted two years ago seems like an eternity ago, given the struggles the team has labored through since that standout season.
Rhinelander's woes, especially on the defensive end of the floor, continued Friday night as it allowed Northland Pines to shoot nearly 54% from the field and rally for a 75-71 win to open the Great Northern Conference season.
The Hodags (0-3, 0-1 Great Northern) have now lost twice in a row to a Northland Pines squad that has never finished better than sixth in the GNC standings. The same problems that plagued Rhinelander at the start of the season reared their head again Friday night - poor defense, costly turnovers, inefficiency from the foul line and an inability to make key plays down the stretch.
"We want to look good instead of win," Hodag coach Derek Lemmens said afterward. "That's what guys that give up 75 points on their home court, that's what they are. They want to look good instead of win. We've got to change that mindset. We've got guys that really do want to win, but we haven't all sold on that, and that's the frustrating thing."
The Hodags did make life difficult on Eagles' point guard and preseason GNC player of the year candidate Ryan Peterson, holding him below his scoring average with 16 points on 5 of 15 shooting. But Peterson made four key free throws in the final 13 seconds to prevent Rhinelander from having a chance to tie or win the game, and he had plenty of help around him as four Eagles players scored at least 14 points.
Rhinelander led much of the way, but Pines used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to take a 59-56 lead. Quinn Lamers, who scored a game-high 21 points for Rhinelander, connected on a 3 to tie the game with 8:10 remaining, but the Eagles got a three-point play from freshman Nolan Lurvey with 7:18 left and led the rest of the way.
Down four with 30.9 seconds left, Jackson Labs missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that would have made it a one-score game, but the Hodags got a steal and a basket on a put back by Travis Towne pulled the Hodags within two with 16.6 seconds left. Peterson was fouled and made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 12.6 seconds remaining to push the lead back to four. Labs scored on an offensive rebound with 1.8 seconds left, but Pines got the inbound pass into Peterson, who was fouled and iced the game at the line.
Lemmens was left to rue another stat sheet that told the story of the Hodags' woes. Rhinelander committed 21 turnovers, was only 13 of 25 from the foul line and allowed Pines to make 13 3-pointers in the contest.
"We're just not executing in so many areas, it's hard to win when you make that many mistakes," Lemmens said.
Rhinelander used a 15-3 run to take a 26-16 lead with seven minutes left in the first half, but the advantage disappeared less than four minutes later. Pines responded with an 18-7 push capped off by a Peterson 3 with 3:09 left in the half to move briefly in front before the Hodags scored five straight and took a 38-36 lead into the half.
Lamers connected on back-to-back 3s to start the second and Towne added a triple to put Rhinelander up 47-38 with 15:20 to play, but Joe Misina hit a 3 to answer for Pines and Rhinelander's lead never got above six points the remainder of the half.
The Hodags had a rare size advantage against an equally undersized Northland Pines squad and finished with a 35-28 edge in rebounds - including 11 from Towne who finished one point shy of a double-double. Drake Martin had 12 points for the Hodags, mostly in the paint, but was held to only three points on two field goal attempts in the second half.
"We stopped going inside. We stopped going, offensively, with what was working real nice. That was the thing," Lemmens said. "When it wasn't Drake, I thought Travis - I would like to see him be a little more aggressive - but we had the size. That was one of things we wanted to do and just didn't capitalize on it."
Misina and Peterson both finished with 16 points for Northland Pines. Lurvey and Ryan Muench, a pair of freshmen, had 15 and 14 points, respectively, on a combined 12 of 12 shooting.
Pines was 28 of 52 from the field, including 13 of 26 from 3-point range.
"The 3s they were getting, it's just rhythm shots. Any varsity team is going to make those shots. They did a nice job getting them. We just have to get better," Lemmens said.
Lamers was 5 of 9 from distance but missed his last three shots. Labs added 10 points off the bench for Rhinelander, which shot 46% (25 of 54) and was 8 of 26 from beyond the arc.
"This is obviously a big bump in the road but, at the end of the day, it's one game in conference," Lemmens said. "We just need to start learning from it and keep getting better and try to become the best team that we can be."
Rhinelander hosts Waupaca tonight in a non-conference game at the Miazga Gym.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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