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February 18, 2020

Rhinelander’s Ross Skeen attempts a shot during the first half of a Great Northern Conference boys’ basketball game at Tomahawk Tuesday, Jan. 14. Skeen scored 10 points in the Hodags’ 52-36 win. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Ross Skeen attempts a shot during the first half of a Great Northern Conference boys’ basketball game at Tomahawk Tuesday, Jan. 14. Skeen scored 10 points in the Hodags’ 52-36 win. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
1/16/2020 7:30:00 AM
Hodag hoops shuts down Tomahawk, returns to .500 in GNC

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

TOMAHAWK - On another pedestrian offensive night, the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team relied on its defense to get a Great Northern Conference win.

The Hodags held the Hatchets without a field goal over the final 8 minutes, 54 seconds and pulled away to a 52-36 win Tuesday night at Hatchet Fieldhouse.

Tomahawk used a 13-3 run to get within four points by the midway point of the second half, but that's when the Hatchets ran out of steam. Tomahawk shot just under 37% from the field, but attempted only 38 shots and did not make any 3-pointers. Tuesday's game marked the first time Rhinelander has held an opponent to fewer than 40 points since Feb. 18, 2018.

"Rhinelander likes defense too, it just hasn't seemed like it the last few years," Rhinelander coach Derek Lemmens quipped after the game. "I thought, defensively, they guys did a really nice job. We're missing some really good looks. There's going to be games where those fall. If we can pair that up with good defense, then we're in a position where we can go out and beat Mosinee at Mosinee like we did, and play those types of games. Our offense, at times, kind of sputtered, it was good that we were playing consistent defense."

Peyton Erikson scored 14 points to lead three Hodags in double digits. Quinn Lamers had 12 and Ross Skeen had 10.

"It was nice to see Erikson shooting the open 3. He can do that and he just hasn't been," Lemmens said. "Hopefully that builds into something. Ross, I felt tonight, was shot ready like we talked about in the Antigo game. There's times where he's catching it, he's got it and he's not shot ready. Tonight, even on that inbound play where it was defended pretty well, but he's starting to realize how small of a window he really needs to get his shot off."

The Hodags came out of the gates hot, making six of their first eight field goals to build a 14-4 lead and force Tomahawk to take a timeout with 12:04 remaining in the half. Rhinelander scored only two field goals over the next 10 minutes, but kept Tomahawk at arm's length. A 3 by Skeen put Rhinelander ahead 24-11 with 1:48 left in the half and the Hodags eventually took a 26-15 lead into the break.

Early in the second half, Tomahawk made a concerted effort to work the ball inside to 6-foot-7 senior forward Connor Dichsen. He had three consecutive buckets on the run that trimmed Rhinelander's lead to four, but did not score the rest of the way. Dichsen led the Hatchets with 12 points and Drew Bolder chipped in nine.

"We didn't have weak side help a couple times. We let deep touches happen on the block. As the game went on, guys did a better job of being in position defensively and made that more challenging," Lemmens said of the team's defensive effort against Dichsen. "He did a little more in the post than I had seen previously. I was impressed with what he did but, overall, for giving up as much size as they did, I thought our bigs did a nice job not allowing deep touches."

Despite being giving up height to the Hatchets, Rhinelander dominated the glass, out rebounding Tomahawk 33-22 in the contest.

"Our guards are starting to do a nice job (rebounding)," Lemmens said. "Peyton's been for several games now, but I thought Jackson Labs as well, really hit the glass well. Then Kirk (Mathews) and Travis (Towne), when they were on the floor, they got a lot of good rebounds. Kirk, I think, had three offensive rebound in sparing minutes. He was working really hard on the glass."

Rhinelander shot 40.9% (18 of 44) in the win, which moved the team into fourth in the GNC, a half game behind Antigo and Mosinee for second.

Up next, the Hodags travel to Marshfield Friday to face a talented Tiger team that routed Rhinelander 72-39 last year.

"They're a well-disciplined team that has played some really good teams already this year and they're going to be contending for what I think is very deep and talented (Wisconsin) Valley (Conference)," Lemmens. "We're going on their court and we're going to have to be ready."

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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