Badger High School won 64-61 in its opener against visiting DeForest Friday night, but it wasn’t easy.
After going up 17, Badger held off a furious DeForest rally that knotted the game at 61-61 with seconds left on the clock.
Badger forward Lincoln Wiseman hit two crucial free throws to put the Badgers ahead for good. DeForest missed a three at the buzzer that would have sent it into overtime.
Badger head coach Darin Lottig praised his team for hanging on for the victory.
“It says a lot about them,” he said. “A lot of teams would have laid down and died.”
He said it was a good step for the program, doubting whether the team would have had the same resolve in a similar situation last year.
DeForest took a 7-2 lead at the start of the game and Lottig conceded his team looked soft. Then they buttoned down on defense frustrating DeForest with presses and traps and went on an 11-0 run.
The Badgers finished the first quarter with a 21-13 lead and looked in control.
Near the end of the first half a chance at a 4-point play for the Badgers ended up to be a 5-point play Bryant Sontag hit a triple and was fouled.
He missed the FT but 6-foot-4 inch senior Jake Kozlowski snared the rebound and put it back.
The Badgers went into the lockeroom with a 37-27 lead and steadily extended it in the third quarter.
A breakway basket put them up 46-29, which proved to be their biggest lead of the game.
Some sloppy play by the Badgers and more intensity from DeForest led to an 8-point run by the visitors just as the game looked well in hand.
Derrick Buntrock stopped the DeForest momentum with a big block and a bucket and Badger held on to a 48-41 lead to end the third.
But DeForest sophomore Derrick Jennings, who led the visitors with 13 points, scored with a spinning drive and brought them to within four midway through the fourth.
DeForest capitalized an over-and-back by the Badgers and closed to 53-51 with 3:48 left.
Wisemen cooly hit two FTs to put the game on ice. DeForest took a time out with 2.6 seconds left, but missed a three pointer that would have tied it up.
Sophomore guard Jake Berhorst was on fire from long range, nailing four 3s. He added five free throws to lead the Badgers with 17 points. Kozlowski added 16 and Wiseman, 15, including the crucial free throws at the end of the game. Buntrock added 8 and Sontag, 7.
The opening game was flawed by uneven calling of the hand-check rule which has been an officiating point of emphasis to start the season.
Lottig said his team will have to work more on closing out games.
Badger plays its first conference game at home against Waterford Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Waterford fell to Milton 58-41 in its opener.