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February 18, 2020

Rhinelander’s Jackson Labs watches the ball go out of bounds during the first half of a non-conference boys’ basketball game against Wausau East at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Jan. 7. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Jackson Labs watches the ball go out of bounds during the first half of a non-conference boys’ basketball game against Wausau East at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Tuesday, Jan. 7. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
1/9/2020 7:30:00 AM
Wausau East blasts Hodag Hoops 81-54

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team had no answer Tuesday for Gabe Krueger and the Wausau East offense.

Krueger, a 6-6 senior, put up 30 points and 11 rebounds and the Lumberjacks had four players in double digits as they rolled the Hodags 81-54 in a non-conference contest at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.

Rhinelander (3-6, 2-2 Great Northern) had to pick its poison against a talented Lumberjack squad that came in averaging more than 72 points per game.

The Hodags focused on Krueger early in the game, only to see several Wausau East role players hit shots from the outside. Krueger got going late in the first half, scoring 18 of the Lumberjacks' final 27 points as East took a 48-28 lead at the break. Krueger finished almost exactly on his season averages, as he came into the contest averaging 30.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

"We really had no answers," Hodag coach Derek Lemmens said. "When we tried to take away Krueger, they hit their open shots. When we tried to take away their open shots, they hit Krueger. It was just one of those nights. We don't match up well. We obviously didn't have that great of a scheme going in. It's something we'll have to adjust if we face them later.

"They just played a really good game and, at the end of the day, were just far better than us."

Ben Cayley and Jake Thome each had 12 points off the bench for the Lumberjacks (7-4, 1-1 Wis. Valley), which shot an even 50% from the floor (29 of 58).

Noah Stroming, who came in averaging two points a contest, had 11 for Wausau East. He hit a pair of 3s in the first 90 seconds of the game, and had 10 of East's first 18 points.

Rhinelander kept pace over the first eight minutes, trailing 18-14. That's when Krueger began to take over in the low post, using his size to get position and score on the undersized Hodag players defending him.

East took control with an 11-0 run that pushed the lead to 29-14 with 7:36 remaining in the half and stretched the lead to 20 by halftime. Krueger added three more buckets as part of an 8-2 run to start the second half. Rhinelander scored seven straight after that to cut the lead to 56-37, but East salted the game away with a 12-3 push that extended the lead to 28 with 10:29 to play.

Quinn Lamers had 12 points to lead Rhinelander and Peyton Erikson had 10, which included a flying offensive putback on a miss late in the first half. Despite his 5-foot-9 frame, Erikson has become one of the team leaders in rebounding.

"It's nice having a guard that has that ability because a lot of guards don't box out," Lemmens said. "They don't finish plays. He gets in there, the bigs are battling each other, and he's got an advantage. He's really taken that piece of his game and made it into a weapon for himself."

Drake Martin was held to eight points for Rhinelander, which shot 32.3% (21 of 65) from the flow and was only 4 of 26 from beyond the arc. Lemmens said the Hodags again were too impatient on the offensive end of the floor.

"We're taking quick ones and we're not working the basketball," he said. "If I was to ask you what we do offensively, I don't think, after watching an entire game, you'd be able to tell what we're trying to do offensively. We've been one or two passes per possession, then shot - which is all good when you make shots, but when you're 4 of 26 (from 3), patience has to overrule.

"We all think we're shooters, but the stat book is telling us otherwise right now."

Though Tuesday's game was a non-conference contest, it could hold postseason ramifications for Rhinelander as East in the same half sectional as the Hodags, and Lemmens said he estimates East is probably about a No. 5 or 6 seed in the bracket right now, based on the way other teams have played.

"When the upper middle (of the sectional) is beating us like that, hopefully it opens our eyes that we've got a long ways to go," he said. "You've got your Merrills. Mosinee and Medford both beat East. You have a Hortonville team that is playing incredibly well. It's a little disheartening right now when you look at it, but (the playoffs are) also in late February. We've got a long ways before that, but it's just something we have to be aware of and continue to work toward."

Rhinelander travels to Sheldon Fieldhouse on Friday night to take on Antigo. It will be the second half of a girls-boys doubleheader with tipoff set for approximately 7:45 p.m.

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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