RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander High School boys basketball team relinquished a four-point lead with 1:32 left in the game, and Wisconsin Rapids ripped off the final nine points of regulation to take a 55-50 win over the Hodags Monday night in Rhinelander.
Junior guard Alex Bassuener was the star all night for the Raiders, and came up big during the final stretch.
"He shouldn't have had time to set up (for his shots). That's why, right now, I'm kind of fuming. We star names, we give these scouting reports, and we've got to learn from this," said RHS coach Derek Lemmens after the game.
Bassuener poured in six three-pointers and 24 total points. His effort included a personal 5-0 run in the final two minutes to snatch the lead, and the game, away from the Hodags.
"We had our chances, and it should have been ours, but it wasn't. We had better learn from this and get better," Lemmens said.
Mitch Reinthaler led Rhinelander with a sparkling performance, going 10-13 from the field on his way to 24 points. But it was how the game ended that's likely to stick in the minds of Hodags players, coaches, and fans.
The teams were deadlocked at 44 entering the fourth quarter, and points flowed slowly until the final two minutes. The Hodags took a 50-46 lead with 1:32 left on the clock, but then Bassuener nailed a long three, got a steal, and was fouled on his drive to the hoop. His two free throws yanked the lead away from Rhinelander in fewer than 30 seconds.
Sam O'Melia was too strong on an open three-point look on the next possession for the Hodags, and four free throws down the stretch sealed the result for Rapids.
"We just had mental lapse after mental lapse. Shooters - not finding them, turning the ball over, being careless. I'll say ‘youth' one more time, but that's the last time I'm saying it this season. We better start growing up," Lemmens said.
Along with Reinthaler, Colton Volkmann shined for the Rhinelander offense, finishing with 15 points on 4-6 shooting. Lemmens also highlighted some of his younger contributors.
"I thought that Brandon Reinthaler gave us great minutes. I thought Devin (Oleinik) played solid. He's got to continue to hunt his shot. I really liked what Colton Volkmann and Mitch Reinthaler did, and I like what Nick Wright did as well," he said.
On the defensive end, Lemmens mixed a combination of mostly man-to-man defense with a smattering of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone. Individual and team defensive efforts helped limit one of the most talked-about players in northcentral Wisconsin to just five points.
Wisconsin Rapids' Philip Flory committed to play to Marquette before even suiting up for a high school game. The freshman, and son of RHS great Mike Flory, was shut down by the Hodag defense.
"He's going to Marquette, but he's a freshman, he's young," Lemmens said. "I thought we just played good straight-up defense."
Riley Pressley chipped in 13 points for the Raiders.
Monday's game was defined largely by runs for each team. Rapids clawed their way to a 15-13 lead after a quarter, but the Hodags fought to a 26-22 advantage midway through the second. Then, the Raiders went on a 9-0 spurt before the half that included two three-pointers by Bassuener. Only a drilled three by Brandon Reinthaler pulled Rhinelander within a pair of points at the half.
The Hodags were forced to storm back from a 40-34 deficit in the third, and they reeled off six points in a row to tie the game at 40. The teams traded a few baskets to reach the 44-44 tie after 24 minutes and set up the fateful final quarter.
As a team, the Hodags shot 18-38 from the floor and 6-14 from distance. They turned the ball over 13 times to eight for Rapids. The Raiders took the rebounding edge, 25-20.
Despite a number of positives, the performance left Lemmens frustrated after the loss.
"It's disappointing. Our youth showed. I think mentally, we're just not tough enough right now," he said.
Rhinelander breaks for more than a week before their next game action. The Hodags will host Merrill next Tuesday in preparation for their December 6 Great Northern Conference opener at Medford. Hear the Merrill game on HodagSports.com, with tipoff at 7:30.