Fall Creek faces challenge from McDonell in Western Cloverbelt
Instead of being the favorite they're the underdogs. Instead of being on top they're chasing the top team
But that's fine for defending Western Cloverbelt Conference Champion Fall Creek. The Crickets at 8-2 and 4-1 in the WCC will face No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Chippewa Falls McDonell Thursday, Jan. 12 at Fall Creek in this early clash for league supremacy with the tip time at 7:15 p.m.
The crown has been an unsteady fit for the Crickets since the start of the new year. FC had no problem beating then winless Eau Claire Regis (2-8) on Tuesday, Jan. 3 by a 75-54 score at home. Bo Vollrath and Isaac Steinke combined for 47 of Fall Creek's points (Vollrath 25 and Steinke 22 points) while both players had seven rebounds each.
But this win followed up by a 56-54 loss in overtime to Bloomer (6-2) on Friday, Jan. 6. Vollrath finished with 18 points and Leo Hagberg scored 11 but no one else was in double figures for FC although Steinke and Ben Kelly each had seven points and Jack Walden had six points. But what really hurt Fall Creek was a dreadful 3-for-15 showing at the free-throw line. That plus a 30-point performance from Bloomer's Domanyck Schwarzenberger, the leading scorer in the WCC at over 23 points per game, which FC couldn't offset. Vollrath finished with 10 rebounds.
The loss to the Blackhawks knocked FC out of the rankings in the state coaches poll although the Cricket still clocked in at No. 8 in the first state AP boys basketball poll of the 2022-23 season in Division 4. McDonell is No. 1 in Division 5 in the AP poll as well.
Fall Creek got back in the win column Monday, Jan. 9 but thanks only to a last-second three-point shot by Hagberg with :20 ticks on the clock to win at Elk Mound (7-3) 46-45. Hagerberg had 11 points, Steinke scored 12 points and Vollrath had nine point to go with a team-best 14 rebounds. FC outrebounded the Mounders 26-14.
Speaking of hot and cold, Osseo-Fairchild is currently playing more than lukewarm with the hopes of becoming scalding in upcoming ballgames. The Thunder have won twice since losing to Fall Creek back on Dec. 27 with wins last week over Bloomer 61-45 on Tuesday, Jan. 3 and 64-39 at Thorp on Friday, Jan. 6. Balanced scoring helped O-F down the Blackhawks negating Schwarzenberg's 23 points (no one else from Bloomer scored more than eight points) with Brody Seefeldt scoring 14 points, Braeden Metzler 12,. Brogan Korger nine and Drake Swett seven points. In all nine players scored for the Thunder (5-5) compared to just six for Bloomer. O-F had three players in double figures in the win over Thorp with Seefeldt and Jack Steinke both scoring 16 points and Ashton Oliver finishing with 10. Metzler contributed eight points. O-F has five games on the road in the next few weeks but three are winnable starting with Cadott this Thursday, Jan. 12 followed by Regis and Stanley-Boyd before facing formidable opponents in Spring Valley on Jan. 24 and McDonell on Jan. 26.
Western Cloverbelt Conference Standings
TEAM CONF. OVERALL
Chippewa Falls McDonell 4-0 12-0
Fall Creek 4-1 8-2
Bloomer 3-1 6-2
Osseo-Fairchild 3-2 5-5
Thorp 3-2 6-7
Regis 1-4 2-8
Stanley-Boyd 1-4 2-11
Cadott 0-5 4-8
Tri-County Area rivals Augusta and Eleva-Strum met last week at Central on Friday, Jan. 6 in an intense contest won by the Beavers 42-41 when a last-second shot by the Cardinals was missed. Augusta's Brennan King led all scorers with 18 points while teammate Drew Jacobs finished with 11. E-S had two players in double figures as well with Bradyn Olson scoring 13 points and Jake Bjerke scoring 10.
The win allowed Augusta to sweep the season series with E-S, snap a five-game losing streak and put them at 2-2 in the Large Dairyland standings despite a 2-9 overall record. AHS has upcoming league home games with Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran on Thursday, Jan. 12, and Whitehall on Jan. 13 before next week's contests at Gilmanton Jan. 17 and Lincoln on Jan. 20.
Eleva-Strum had a busy schedule last weekend playing Augusta then Glenwood City (1-7) on Saturday, Jan. 7 at Target Center in Minneapolis where they lost to the Hilltoppers 40-25 and Monday, Jan. 9 at Elmwood/Plum City where they lost 48-41. E-S played a solid second half against GC, outscoring them 22-20 but that couldn't overcome a 20-3 halftime deficit. Dalton Krupka led E-S with eight points and three assists and Nick Olson finished with six. Bjerke finished with nine rebounds. Against EPC, Brody Hanson finished with a team-best 16 points and Krupka scored 11 and Olson finished with points. Krupka also had eight rebounds and Nick Olson had three assists. But 25 points from the Wolves' Lucas Glaus proved the difference in the ballgame. Eleva-Strum (1-10) also lost last week at Whitehall 82-34 on Tuesday, Jan. 3. The Cards continue to be busy as they take on Alma/Pepin Thursday, Jan. 12 and play a rescheduled contest vs. Melrose-Mindoro at home on Saturday, Jan. 14 and travel to Cochrane-Fountain City on Monday, Jan. 16.
Dairyland Conference Large Division Standings
TEAM CONF. OVERALL
Whitehall 4-0 7-2
Melrose-Mindoro 3-0 7-2
Augusta 2-2 2-9
Cochrane-Fountain City 1-2 4-3
Blair-Taylor 1-3 4-6
Eleva-Strum 0-4 1-10