By BURT ANGELI
FLORENCE, Wis. – Florence, ignited by Connor Beaster’s 28 points and 24 rebounds, continued its bid for a home regional game by beating rival Niagara 56-45 in non-conference boys basketball Thursday.
“The difference in the game was Beaster, obviously,” said Florence Coach Tom Beck. “That was the big thing and the rest of the guys played pretty well for three quarters. But we didn’t finish the way I’d like to see us finish.”
The 6-foot-8 Beaster added five blocks.
Niagara, on the short end of the score for the entire night, closed a 17-point deficit to nine in the final minute of the game. Florence posted a 30-17 halftime edge.
“It was a real nice win for us but we didn’t play particularly well, the fourth quarter especially,” Beck said. “We couldn’t handle too much of a good thing. We had chances to put them away and then we got careless with the ball.”
“Give those guys credit. They didn’t give up and kept finding a way to stay in the ballgame.”
Freddy Noeske chipped in 10 Bobcat points. Tyler Valine and Lukas Gareau each dished out four assists.
Beaster scored 23 points in the Bobcats’ season-opening 54-38 loss to the Badgers. Zach Walker, expected to rejoin the team later this month, topped Niagara with 24 in the November contest.
“Beaster does a nice job and has really improved his physical part of the game,” Hoogland said. “He’s toughened up his game and he’s a load inside.”
“I think Florence has really improved. They’re playing pretty good ball right now and that’s exactly what you want to do.”
Joey Swanson drained 15 points and Adam Parent had 10 for the Badgers, who struggled to operate smoothly.
“We’re trying to explore and expand our individual offensive games (without Walker),” Hoogland said of the process to develop the other players offensively. “They did exactly what I wanted them to do.”
“We’re a little ragged because we’re not quite sure of who’s supposed to what yet. We did a much better job of that tonight.”
As for the Division 5 regional, both coaches figure Wausaukee or Goodman-Pembine for the top seed. The next four slots will determined by Phelps and Suring along with the Bobcats and Badgers.
“Three, four, five and six (seeds) are up in the air,” Beck said. “There’s still a lot of games to be played. There’s a chance (for a home game) but we have to keep winning and other teams have to lose. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Tonight, Florence (6-11) visits Laona-Wabeno and Niagara (6-10) hosts Wausaukee.
Spencer Davis and Jeff Friend combined for 18 points as Florence’s junior varsity turned back Niagara 40-35. Kalvin Jeffords and Tyler Rice totaled 17 Badger markers.