There was no doubt the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team had a chip on their shoulder going into Friday's rematch against Tomahawk. The Hodags fell to the Hatchets 62-58 at the end of January on the road and had a lot to prove going into the GNC showdown. Although they trailed a majority of the night, RHS found a way to get by and defeat Tomahawk 35-30 at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
It was a half court defensive grind on both ends of the court, and luckily the Hodags forced 18 turnovers, because they struggled shooting on the night. Rhinelander only made four shots in the first half and fell behind 11-16 at halftime. The Hatchets fell to 2-6 in the Great Northern Conference and the Hodags advanced to 6-3.
Tomahawk would use a 14-3 run which included seven straight points for Justin Jarvensivu, as the Hatchets took their largest lead of the night at 16-8. But Brad Comer connected on a triple with just over a minute left in the half to put the Hodags in double digits.
But Rhinelander would battle back and used a 11-5 run to regain the lead at 22-21 after an Owen White jump shot. White would rally for seven straight points midway through the second half to help spark the Hodags. Rhinelander would build their lead to 29-22 after White had a nice dish to Junior Howard inside with five minutes left.
But the Hatchets would take advantage of Rhinelander's missed free throws down the stretch and clawed their way back in and was able to go on their own 6-1 run to pull within two points at 30-28.
Jarvensivu forced a shot with under 30 seconds left, but Freddy Koth came up with a big offensive rebound and put back to put the Hatchets down by one at 31-30.
Reeve Craig, who struggled from the free throw line on the night was fouled and connected on two bonus free throws with 20.9 seconds left to put RHS up by three. Jarvensivu would force another three pointer up, and Comer secured the rebound and was quickly fouled.
Comer connected on both free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining for the Hodag's final points of the night. Rhinelander would hold on to earn the 35-30 GNC win.
White would lead the Hodags with 12 points and added six rebounds in the effort despite limited time on the court in the second half due to foul trouble. Comer added nine points in the win, and Matt Reinthaler finished with six. Craig added four points, all on free throws on the night.
Jarvensivu finished the night with a game-high of 17 points, and added 10 rebounds in his efforts. The Hodags defense was able to hold Jarvensivu to only six points in the second half, which included only one field goal.
Antigo fell in double-overtime to Mosinee 90-87 which put Rhinelander by themselves in second place behind Medford. RHS remains a game and half behind the Raiders and will be put to the test on Thursday when they travel to Raider Hall.
Rhinelander will first play in their annual non-conference game against Wausau West. The battle between the Lemmens' brother always proves to be a close rivalry game. The tip-off is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30PM at the Wausau West fieldhouse.