Rhinelander’s Peyton Erikson pressures Waupaca’s Logan Johnson (11) in the backcourt during the first half of a non-conference boys’ basketball game at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Dec. 10. The Hodags held Waupaca to 32.6% shooting and forced 26 turnovers in a 66-42 win. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Jacksen Smith drives past Waupaca’s Tristan Schuler-Jones for a layup during the first half of a non-conference boys’ basketball game at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Dec. 10.
12/12/2019 7:30:00 AM Back on track Hodag hoops gets defensive, beats Waupaca 66-42 for first win of the season
Maligned over the first three games of the 2019-20 season, the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball employed a defense Tuesday night that resembled what fans have come to expect from Hodag basketball.
The Hodags held Waupaca to 32.6% shooting, generated 26 turnovers and defeated the Comets 66-42 in a non-conference game at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
Rhinelander came into the contest having allowed 74.7 points per game during an 0-3 start to the season. That changed Tuesday as the Hodags stifled Waupaca with tight man-to-man coverage. The 42 points Waupaca scored are the fewest by a Hodag opponent since Feb. 16, 2018 in a 56-36 win at Antigo.
"I thought our defense was better. The intensity was better," Rhinelander coach Derek Lemmens said "... I thought, defensively, communication was better, and the rebounding I was impressed with. I thought guys did a much better job on the glass, boxing out and guards got involved."
Rhinelander (1-3, 0-1 Great Northern) never trailed in the game and used a 13-2 run early on to bump the lead to double digits. The Hodags led 25-14 at halftime and, when Waupaca cut the lead to eight early in the second half, responded with a quick 7-0 burst capped off by a Quinn Lamers 3 to surge ahead 34-19. Waupaca (1-1, 1-0 North Eastern) never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Defensively, the Hodags made life miserable for 6-6 Waupaca junior forward Hunter Marcom, who came in off a 24-point, 18-rebound performance in the Comets' season-opening 61-50 win at Marinette Friday night. Marcom pulled down 10 rebounds but was held to five points on 2 of 7 shooting.
"That all started with guys positioning," Lemmens said. "Guys were in spots early and he wasn't able to get a lot of deep touches. He made some tough shots in the high post but, in terms of catching the ball on the block, he had a difficult time doing that."
Despite being undersized, Rhinelander also outrebounded Waupaca by a 41-33 margin.
Lamers followed up a 21-point performance in the Hodags' 75-71 Friday loss against Northland Pines with 19 points on Tuesday. He scored nine points in the first half as part of a 13-5 push that gave Rhinelander a 21-7 lead with 5:24 remaining in the half. He added 10 more in the second half, including a layup off a steal with 8:19 remaining that grew the Hodag advantage to 45-26 and forced Waupaca to spend a timeout.
"He had some nice looks that he was able to put in," Lemmens said. "He made some nice moves to attack the basket. He also had some nice passes. If we can just continue to get him to be that player and get some other guys to step up and be a little more aggressive (we'll be in good shape)."
Drake Martin added 14 points for Rhinelander as 10 different Hodags scored in the contest. With the game in hand late in the second half, Rhinelander put in senior reserves Jason Huseby and Alex Kubeny who both hit 3s to the delight of the student section. Rhinelander finished the night 42.4% from the field (25 of 59) and was 9 of 29 from 3-point range.
"The ball was moving better. Guys were able to attack. We looked like more of a cohesive unit out there on offense," Lemmens said.
Junior guard Logan Johnson led Waupaca with 15 points, but the Comets put up 16 fewer shots than the Hodags. Much of that had to do with turnovers and poor shots generated by Rhinelander's defense.
"We did a good job of pressuring them without fouling," Lemmens said. "In the second half, we got a little crazy with our hands but, before that, they just kind of allowed Waupaca to make mistakes on their own. They applied the pressure and let things happen without forcing the issue."
Though most of the woes that plagued the Hodags through the first three games of the season went away Tuesday, the team still struggled from the foul line, going 8 of 17. Overall, Rhinelander is only 58.1% shooting free throws (43 of 74) through four games.
"That's becoming an issue now. We've got to shore that up," Lemmens said. "If we want to close out games, we've got to win from the free throw line. That's cost us two games. That's cost us two Ws, the free throw line has. We've got to start shoring that up."
The Hodags hit the road Friday night to face Mosinee in a Great Northern Conference contests. The Indians, who went undefeated in GNC play last year, are off to a 2-0 start to the season.
"We've got a big conference game on the road. We don't want to start out 0-2 in conference. We need to step up and take it to Mosinee on their court," Lemmens said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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