Badgers lock down Florence after half

NIAGARA, Wis. – Niagara, holding Florence to just 12 points in the second half, ran off with a 54-38 non-conference boys basketball victory Thursday evening in a sloppy season opener for both clubs.

Zach Walker paced the victorious Badgers with 24 points, hitting three times from beyond the arc. He scored 14 in the second half.

“He just started looking to score a little more,” Badgers head coach Jim Hoogland said. “He played every minute and carried us offensively.”

Walker also had five steals and led Niagara with 12 rebounds.

“He kind of just did everything,” Hoogland said.

The teams combined for 34 turnovers in the contest, and Niagara had to play the majority of the fourth quarter without Joey Swanson – who fouled out of the game with 6:21 remaining. Patrick Moreau also fouled out for the Badgers.

“The subs off the bench did a tremendous job,” Hoogland said. “This was a great win to start the season. It can propel us, knowing that we can win without our best players on the floor.”

Connor Beaster scored 23 to lead the Bobcats. But he was held to just two points in the third quarter, as Niagara’s full-court pressure began to pay dividends.

Adam Parent scored seven of his 12 points in the third frame. He nailed a triple late in the frame to give Niagara the lead for good at 29-28. Brandon Holcomb was the third Badger in double digits with 10 points.

“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Hoogland said. “Holding them to 12 points in the second was key. We picked up our intensity.”

Florence never closed the gap in the fourth quarter. A free throw by Tyler Beck cut Niagara’s lead to 38-32 with 6:21, but that is as close as the Bobcats would come. Free throws in the final two minutes helped Niagara push the lead into double figures.

Niagara (1-0) plays at Pembine Tuesday. Florence (0-1) goes to Pembine Dec. 3.