By Brian Kalish
January 22, 2019
Wausau– The Wausau East Lumberjacks have lost some tight games to Wisconsin Valley Conference opponents this season. There was the three-point loss to Merrill on January 18, a three-point loss to SPASH on January 8 and a six-point loss to D.C. Everest way back on December 11.
On Tuesday night, East finally got a close game to go their way– and some payback– as they pulled out a 90-89 victory over D.C. Everest to pick up their third victory in Wisconsin Valley Conference play.
A defensive battle this was not.
For East, it was the 1-2 punch of Ryan LaCerte and Gabe Krueger that made the difference.
To break it down in baseball terms, LaCerte was the starter and Krueger was the closer.
LaCerte was absolutely unconscious in the first half. He drained five three pointers in the opening frame and scored 17 of East’s first 20 points.
“I hit the first one and my shot just felt good,” said LaCerte. “From there I kept shooting and kept getting open shots. My teammates really got me open for some good looks.”
LaCerte would finish the game with 29 points to lead all scorers.
Forced to sit for a good chunk of time prior to intermission due to foul trouble, Krueger more than made his presence felt in the second half where he dominated the paint and scored 23 of his 25 points.
“Gabe’s our top scorer and he really finishes well,” said LaCerte. “Going into half, he only had two (points), so we knew we had to get him going. Once we got Gabe going, everything else clicked.”
“They came out in a zone and Ryan did a nice job of shooting them out of the zone. They got out of it and never went back to it,” said East coach Paul Dimka. “Gabe was in foul trouble early and in the second half he made some good decisions and we did a nice job of getting the ball inside.”
While LaCerte and Krueger carried the day for East, Everest got a heroic effort by Bryan Halambeck and Zion Turner.
Halambeck scored 25 points and Turner poured in 28.
Mid-way through the second half, Everest built up a 56-50 lead on a Alec Stuedemann three-point play, but East countered with two consecutive baskets by Krueger to trim the advantage to 56-54. Minutes later, Everest went up 63-60 on a Halambeck three pointer.
A seesaw battle took a turn in East’s direction when Everest was called for a technical foul. After four made free throws by East as a result of that play, the Lumberjacks took a 70-68 lead.
Though East was in the driver’s seat down the stretch, Everest did not make things easy.
Everest simply refused to give up and East escaped– barely– with the win.
“They kept making shots,” said Dimka. “I think we maybe relaxed a little bit there thinking this one was over. But it’s not over if you don’t make free throws and they make shots.”
The Lumberjacks improve to 10-5 overall and 3-4 in the Valley, while Everest falls to 10-5 overall and 3-4 in the Valley.
Everest will host Wausau West on January 25; East will battle West on January 29.
East Scoring: Kane 12, LaCerte 29, Meyer 2, Buchberger 11, Krueger 25, Smith 2, Cayley 2, Thome 3, Kronberger 4
Everest Scoring: Halambeck 25, Brodhagen 2, Turner 28, Ostrowski 12, Edwards 3, Sivertson 6, Stuedemann 13