Mike McDermott, Contributor
The River Valley boys basketball team faced Sauk Prairie Dec. 14 with a roster and coaching staff depleted by COVID-19 quarantines. Nonetheless, the hometown squad, with only 8 players dressed for the game, gave Sauk Prairie all they could handle before ultimately falling 58-52.
The difference in the game was an early run by Sauk Prairie, turning a 3-2 lead into a 20-6 advantage midway through the first half. That 14 point margin would hold steady until intermission, with Valley unable to make a serious dent in the lead, trailing 33-19 at the half. The Blackhawks have been a slow starting bunch thus far, trailing Platteville by 11 before getting into gear and putting the Hillmen away after the halftime break, earlier in the season. RV would need another strong 2nd half to catch the Eagles on this night.
One of the reserves who stepped up to help keep the Blackhawks in the game was Kameran Smith. His nine points and energetic play was just what the doctor ordered on a night when the doctor ordered a number of players to stay home. Zach Gloudeman also did his best to help River Valley climb back into this game, while the stingy Eagles were refusing to give up their double digit lead. Gloudeman’s old-fashioned three point play capped a 7-0 Blackhawk run to cut the lead to 43-35 with 6:30 left in the game, energizing his teammates and the home crowd.
Sauk Prairie responded, as they had done most of the night, scoring the next five points to bounce the lead back to thirteen. Still, the Valley boys were not throwing in the towel. Fueled by long-range threes from Preston Hying, Landen Alt and Tyler Nachreiner, RV sliced the deficit to 51-48 with 2:00 to go in the game. Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Blackhawks would get, as the visitors went on to close out the 58-52 win.
Head coach Luke Thatcher, who watched the game on RVTV due to quarantine, acknowledged the challenges his team faced this week, “All of the different forms of adversity the team had to face this week with different coaches and different lineups made things a little difficult. Once everyone settled in and started playing together I thought we moved the ball well, and obviously made a pretty good run at the end of the game. I’m very proud of how everyone fought. I would also like to acknowledge Kevin Billington, Brian Krey, Justin Stanek, and especially Darby Blakley for stepping up into different roles while Steve Stettler and myself were out. Without their willingness to help out, we would have had to cancel more games than we did.”
Zach Gloudeman set the pace for River Valley with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Preston Hying added 13 points, Smith had nine, and Nachreiner tossed in eight for the balanced RV attack.
The Blackhawks won a conference matchup with Dodgeville on Monday, 60-57.