PRAIRIE DU SAC — When it needed to score the most, the Portage boys basketball team seemed unable to buy a basket Tuesday night.
The Warriors suffered a 6½-minute scoreless drought toward the end of the first half and created a deficit they were unable to dig out of en route to a 66-52 loss to host Sauk Prairie in a Badger North Conference game.
“It seemed like an eternity there for a while where we didn’t get a bucket in the first half,” Portage coach Ron Olson said. “We broke down offensively and we didn’t play really well as a team on the offensive side of the ball.”
That was the case early on as the Eagles (3-3, 2-2 Badger North) built an 8-2 lead after a layup by senior Spencer Kostroski with 15:27 left in the first half. The Warriors (4-4, 3-1) eventually got cooking and proceeded to trade baskets before a jumper by senior Craig Steele and a layup by sophomore Brett Walker pulled Portage to within 22-18 with 8 minutes left in the half.
Sauk Prairie answered Portage’s push with an 11-0 run. Senior Carson Radl scored seven straight points in the middle, including a 3-pointer from the corner, as the Eagles extended their edge to 33-18.
The Warriors finally halted the spurt with a floater by senior Erik Isakson with 1:24 to go in the half, and went into the locker room down 35-20.
For Olson, along with the Eagles’ strong shooting, the Warriors’ poor shot selection and inability to finish made the difference in the first half.
GALLERY: Portage vs. Sauk Prairie boys basketball
Photos of the Portage and Sauk Prairie boys basketball teams squaring off in a Badger North Conference game on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at Sauk Prairie High School. The Eagles used an 11-0 run late in the first half to down the Warriors 66-52.
“We had some opportunities where we didn’t finish inside like we have and early in the game. I really felt we had some opportunities to finish inside that could have given us a little different momentum early,” he said. “We dug a hole for ourselves early and it was a long night trying to get out of it.”
Out of the break, it was more of the same from the first half as Sauk Prairie picked up where it left off, building a 41-24 lead with 16 minutes remaining after a Kostroski 3-pointer. The Warriors were able to answer, trimming the lead to 12 at 41-29 with 11:30 left after a 3-pointer by Eli Considine but the Eagles answered right back.
A mid-range jumper by Kostroski and a slicing layup by senior Elijah Jorgenson with 10:40 left for a 45-29 lead before Sauk Prairie pushed the lead back to as many as 19 with 8:30 left on a 3-pointer by sophomore Trevor Spray. Again Portage clawed back, getting the deficit to 12 at 57-45 on a 3-pointer by senior Erik Isakson with 4 minutes left, but the Eagles responded and salted the game away.
“They’re disciplined, very scrappy and play all together as a team on both sides of the basketball,” Olson said of the Eagles. “We knew that we were going to feel the pressure and had to take care of the ball, and I felt we didn’t play the team basketball we needed to.”
Steele scored a game-high 22 points, notching 14 in the second half, Isakson added 13 and Considine chipped in 11, but the rest of the Warriors combined for just six points.
“Craig has just growing tremendously as a basketball player,” Olson said. “He knows how to find his teammates, but at the same time he knows to find his own shot. When we need to go to him for a score, he knows how to get it going.”
While the loss snaps a 3-game winning streak for the Warriors and sends the team into the Christmas break on a sour note, Olson knows that his group has done a lot of good things.
“We’ve had some moments in games where it hasn’t been the cleanest, but overall, we’ve taken a lot of positive steps,” he said. “We’re going to step back, take a look at film, break things down and see where we need to get better.”
SAUK PRAIRIE 66, PORTAGE 52
Portage 20 32 — 52
Sauk Prairie 35 31 — 66
PORTAGE — Garrigan 1 0-0 3, Considine 5 0-0 11, Steele 9 4-4 22, Isakson 5 1-4 13, Walker 1 0-0 2, Miller 0 1-2 1. Totals 21 6-10 52.
SAUK PRAIRIE — Evert 2 2-2 7, Radl 6 2-2 17, Jorgenson 1 4-4 6, Kostroski 7 2-3 18, Spray 2 0-0 6, Henderson 5 1-2 12. Totals 23 11-13 66.
3-point goals — POR 4 (Garrigan 1, Considine 1, Isakson 2), SP 9 (Evert 1, Radl 3, Kostroski 2, Spray 2, Henderson 1). Total fouls — POR 14, SP 9.