Rhinelander’s Jacksen Smith attempts to steal the ball from Medford’s Justin Sullivan during a Great Northern Conference boys’ basketball game at Raider Hall in Medford, Friday, Feb. 7. (Matt Frey/Star News)
2/11/2020 7:33:00 AM Hodag hoops can't keep up with GNC-leading Medford
For the first time this season, the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team did not have a lead in the second half of a Great Northern Conference basketball game.
Conference-leading Medford never gave the Hodags a chance Friday night.
The Raiders got 20 points from Justin Sullivan, another 18 from Peyton Kuhn and led wire-to-wire in a 61-48 victory over the Hodags at Raider Hall.
The Hodags (5-11, 3-6 Great Northern) fell into an early 8-0 hole and could not recover.
"We turned the ball over seven of our first of 11 possessions. It was just playing fast, playing careless, defensive letdowns," Hodag coach Derek Lemmens said. "They settled down and I thought after the first six minutes, we played pretty well from that point on. But we had dug ourselves a hole and we could never get out of it. We got it to five and seven multiple times, but we'd have a key turnover and they'd make a big basket or get to the rim and get fouled."
That early push carried the Raiders through the first half as they took a 26-17 lead at the break. Rhinelander got the first four points of the second half, but Medford answered with a 16-7 surge to go ahead 42-28 and essentially put the game away with a pair of Kuhn baskets back-to-back to take a 50-39 lead with less than five minutes to play.
"Every time we really claw ourselves back, we'd have a bad turnover or allow a blow by, something to kill our momentum," Lemmens said.
Despite being smaller than Rhinelander, Medford had a 27-16 rebounding edge Friday night and made only one 3-pointer in the contest.
"They're undefeated (in the conference) for a reason," Lemmens said. "They execute. That team plays harder than any team that we face - hands down harder than us. They're tenacious. They want it. They're hungrier. They killed us on the glass in the first half. We're taller at just about every spot and they're eating us up on the glass. They're tougher. They're physically stronger. They're clearly a weight room-committed group. They just physically bullied us and we're sound."
Ross Skeen led Rhinelander with 16 points, Peyton Erikson had 11 and Quinn Lamers chipped in 10 in defeat, Rhinelander's fourth consecutive loss.
The result dropped the Hodags to sixth in the conference standings.
Rhinelander has never finished lower than tied for fourth since joining the GNC in the 2010-11 season.
Rhinelander has a chance to keep that string intact as it travels to Lakeland tonight and hosts Antigo on Friday - two of the teams directly ahead of the Hodags in the conference standings.
Lemmens said how the Hodags fare this week may determine if Rhinelander gets a home game for the first round of the WIAA playoffs.
"You've got Antigo and you have Lakeland and those are the two teams we're going to be jockeying with. I think, right there, is your 7, 8 and 9. What we do is going to be crucial," he said. "We need to pour everything we've got into this week and give ourselves a chance at that 7-seed."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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