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December 03, 2013 | 02:59 PMWALWORTH — The Williams Bay Bulldogs defeated the Big Foot Chiefs Monday 54-42 in a cross-lake rivalry game at Big Foot High School.
The Bulldogs and Chiefs played physical and fast from tip-off to the buzzer and were neck and neck through the first three quarters. The score was 31-31 at the beginning of the fourth.
The Bulldogs entered the second half with a spark from senior Adam Lechelt. The Chiefs scored a quick seven points to start the third quarter, but Lechelt found a way to answer.
Williams Bay Head Coach Troy Nottestad said he told Lechelt he needed to pick up his game toward the end of the second quarter.
“I took (Lechelt) out at the end of the first half and said ‘Hey, you know what, you’re a senior, you’ve got to make some plays,” Nottestad said. “And I just told him in the locker room (after the game), I think he did that.”
Lechelt hit five 3-pointers, one field goal and made four of four free throw attempts in the second half. Lechelt finished the game with 31 points. He was also disruptive on defense and forced several turnovers that resulted in baskets for the Bulldogs.
“Coach was really getting on me in the first half because I wasn’t making plays, and as a senior, as the point guard, I had to make plays for my team,” Lechelt said after the game.
The Chiefs were playing without three starters, Big Foot head coach Mike Dowden said. Senior varsity veterans Gus Wedig, Dan Pearce and Nate Freytag all sat out due to injury.
The injuries and some early foul trouble left the Chiefs short-handed and exhausted by the end of the game — they were unable to match the healthy and experienced Bay squad’s tempo and showed some fourth-quarter fatigue that limited movement on offense and opened things up for the Bulldogs.
“We had good energy in the first half,” Dowden said. “I think we got tired. We quit cutting in the second half. We quit moving around. And it showed. I guess the inexperience showed.”
With three senior starters out, Dowden’s depth was severely cut. The junior players filling in didn’t have enough experience in varsity games to stay consistent and limit mistakes.
“You got to get into the game and you have to realize: how do you play with two fouls, and how do you play with one foul early in the game,” Dowden said. “A lot of guys are used to that on the (junior varsity) level. It’s a little different on the varsity level. Crowds get a little rowdier, all that stuff. You just got to take a step back and say ‘all right, I can take this next step.’ And that will come. I’d be disappointed if we’re still saying this about these same kids here in a couple games.”
The Chiefs committed more than 20 personal fouls and put the Bulldogs in double bonus in both the first and second halves.
But even down three starters, Big Foot showed some great promise. The Chiefs were more aggressive than the Bulldogs on both offense and defense in the first two quarters, showing confidence in the paint and generating turnovers that led to points.
Big Foot senior Austin Hoey led the team with six field goals, but made only one of six free throws and ended the game with 13 points. Junior Alex Landers was the most consistent scorer on either team — he made a 3-point shot in every quarter and finished the game with 12 points.
Senior Brett Morris contributed six points from three field goals. The other four players who received significant playing time, however, contributed only 11 points combined.
“If we’re at full strength it’s a different story, but now we need to work on evaluating what do we need to do to get better,” Dowden said. “What do we need to do in the next 24 hours to get better, and what do we need to do while we’re waiting for those guys to come back?”
Lechelt said that since Big Foot and Williams Bay high schools are so close — only about five miles apart — a fun rivalry was brewing before the game.
“There was a lot of Twitter talk all over,” Lechelt said. “It was a fun game. A fun match. I think the fans were getting loud and I think (both sides) enjoyed the game, whichever team won or lost, it was a fun game.”
Lechelt said beside a small pushing match between two players near the end of the fourth quarter, there wasn’t a lot of negative talk among players on the court, and an undefeated start has him encouraged during his last season playing for the Bulldogs.
“It’s my last year, (we’re) 3-0, we have a lot of talent, we just got to bring the intensity,” Lechelt said. “We got a lead and then they came back on us, we kind of took a break. If we keep playing hard, I feel like we have a lot of skill on this team and this could be one of our best season in my four years here.”
Nottestad said that though his team has started well, there are still areas that need improvement — but he liked the effort his boys showed against the Chiefs.
“As a coach I have to understand, hey, it’s only the third game of the year,” Nottestad said.
Nottestad said that Bay teams have struggled against physical opponents in the past, but so far this year, with victories over Big Foot and Fall River, two very physical teams, he feels his team is getting tougher “physically and mentally,” he said.
As the season progresses, Nottestad hopes to see more of the same tough play his Bay boys have displayed so far and Dowden hopes to get his young players some more experience .
“To us it’s a learning lesson,” Dowden said.” We need to learn how to get better and grow up fast.”