MENOMONIE - The Rhinelander boys basketball team allowed 82 points on Friday. They committed 25 turnovers. And they made just one three-pointer.
But the Hodags won.
Rhinelander outlasted Chippewa Falls, 84-82, in the Big Rivers Conference-Wisconsin Valley Conference Holiday Classic at Menomonie High School.
The Hodags' startling statistics were coupled with a season high in scoring - by 34 points - and 32 points for senior Mitch Reinthaler.
But those numbers weren't altogether surprising, considering the opponent. Chippewa Falls is in the first year of running what's called "The System". The Cardinals play a frenetic, chaotic, and utterly bizarre style. They look to take a shot within 12 seconds of each possession, attempt 40 three-pointers per game, press full-court, and double-team everywhere on the court defensively.
"That felt like three games for us, scoring-wise," Rhinelander coach Derek Lemmens said after the contest.
With the huge number of possessions for each team, even a large lead didn't seem safe. But neither squad led by double-digits at any point. While the Hodags looked like they were in good shape late in the fourth quarter, they were forced to hold on to slip by Chi-Hi at the buzzer.
After a tie game at 68 with five minutes left, Rhinelander ripped off ten of the next 14 points to go up six. The advantage held relatively steady, and the Hodags remained up six after a Ryan Dart three-point play with less than a minute left.
But then Chippewa Falls made a frantic last-minute charge. After an Amos Mayberry bucket for the Cardinals, Colton Volkmann missed a pair of free throws, and Nate Kalien popped in his 22nd, 23rd, and 24th point of the game with a pure three-pointer.
That brought Chi-Hi within one. After a time-out, Volkmann looked to find Reinthaler with an inbounds pass with six seconds left. Instead, he threw it out of bounds, and the Cardinals had a chance to take the lead.
The Hodags saved their best defense for last, forcing a five-second call and a turnover.
Nick Wright made one of two free throws for Rhinelander after a foul, and a potential game-winning three-pointer by Cardinals guard Jake Sperry fell away as the horn sounded.
"In the end, these guys just found a way - that five-second call, that took some guts," Lemmens said.
Reinthaler's 32 points led all scorers.
"He really struggled to finish early. I was getting a little worried there. Then he got comfortable and started finishing," Lemmens said.
Dart helped get the baskets flowing with ten first-quarter points. He finished with 15. Volkmann's 11 put a trio of Hodags in double figures.
"I thought Ryan Dart and Colton Volkmann attacked the glass very well, and found ways to get to the rim at times," Lemmens said.
Overcoming the style difference was a major challenge for Rhinelander.
"I think we felt very out of our element," Lemmens said. "You take everything we do in our program and throw it out the window. Shot selection, for example."
Playing at a fast tempo was made especially difficult given the roster for the Hodags. Rhinelander was missing Kent Mathews, who was at a family function, combined with a handful of other injuries and absences.
"We had to do it with a short bench due to Kent Mathews being gone and our split-timers having to play full-time JV," said Lemmens.
A glance at the box score wouldn't give away that challenge, though.
The Hodags started sluggish, and struggled to convert short lay-ins early on. But Rhinelander went on a 10-0 run to close the first quarter. They led 23-17 after the first period.
Chi-Hi climbed within three at the half. Ten Cardinals got on the score sheet in the first half alone.
By the midway point in the third quarter, Rhinelander had already hit a season high for scoring. Their previous best was a 50-point outing in a five-point home loss to Wisconsin Rapids.
The Hodags took their largest lead of the game into the fourth quarter, up 64-57. But Chippewa Falls chalked up the first six of the period. The Cardinals later tied it at 68 before the final stretch ensued.
Rhinelander will take on River Falls at 12:45pm Friday in the final game of the BRC-WVC Holiday Classic. The Wildcats defeated Wausau West 56-45 on Thursday.
"They're just a solid all-around team, and I think they're a team that's more similar to the way we play," Lemmens said of River Falls.
The Hodags return to conference play Friday at Mosinee.
Rhinelander vs. Chippewa Falls
Friday, December 27
Rhinelander 23 17 24 20 - 84
Chippewa Falls 17 20 20 25 - 82
Rhinelander (84) - M. Reinthaler 32, Dart 15, Volkmann 11, B. Reinthaler 8, Wright 8, Oleinik 6, O'Melia 3, Young 1.
Chippewa Falls (82) - Kalien 24, A. Mayberry 10, Ignarski 9, Sperry 9, Knez 8, Crumbaker 6, Olson 4, S. Mayberry 4, Houle 3, Bowe 3, Johnson 2.