Mike McDermott, Contributor
In a normal year it would be surprising to play a team with six more games played than their opponent. In the 2020-21 season, it’s just one of many unusual circumstances surrounding high school athletics. Lancaster came to River Valley last Tuesday night with a record of 10-2, going against the 2-2 Blackhawks. The Arrows early strategy of pressing full-court did not rattle the Hawks, who ran off to an early 11-4 lead, with several easy buckets coming off the press break. Zach Gloudeman and Preston Hying did the heavy lifting early, hurting Lancaster with close range shots. Press or no press, it looked like the red-hot Blackhawks were going to have an easy night. An 11-0 run put the home team up 22-9 and the Tyler Nachreiner/Will Bailey sharpshooting duo would stretch the lead further as RV broke out to a sixteen point lead with 5:00 left in the half. At the rate they were going, it looked as though the Blackhawks might hit 50 by half, and they came into this contest averaging 55 a game. Free throws and close range shots kept the Arrows in this game, as the halftime scoreboard showed RV with a 46-33 lead.
Lancaster could easily have trailed by 20 at the half, so they had to feel good about only being down 13. Sometimes momentum shifts from one team to the other on a dramatic play; other times it comes as a slow drip. After an early basket by Nachreiner and a corner three from Landen Alt, Valley still held a comfortable 51-37 lead. This is where the slow drip started. Five turnovers in the first four minutes of the 2nd half, combined with Lancaster’s ability to get shots close to the basket, let the Arrows back into the game as they went on an 11-3 run to cut the score to 51-44. Bailey’s trey and a free throw bumped the lead back up to 11 points, but Lancaster responded with nine straight points and suddenly Valley was clinging to a 55-53 advantage. Both teams traded baskets for the next few minutes, but down the stretch free throws made the difference for the visitors. Cole Raisbeck did most of the damage from the charity stripe as Lancaster scored their last eight points of regulation from the line, pulling even at 65-65 with 22 seconds remaining. The Blackhawks had a couple of chances to hit a game winner but were unable to get off a good shot. Overtime!
DJ Kelley hit a three early in the extra period – just the 2nd three of the game for Lancaster – and that would be the final margin of victory as the Arrows took down the Blackhawks 72-69. Certainly a disappointing outcome for RV after a blazing first half, but again, this was just the 5th game played by the Blackhawks here in early January. They will have a chance to show what they learned from this as they continue the home stand Friday night vs. Prairie du Chien. The Hawks have to be encouraged by the balanced scoring attack. Gloudeman led the way with 15, followed by Bailey and Nachriener with 14 apiece, Hying had 13, and Landen Alt dropped 10 points.