Bonduel’s fast start leads them to a victory over Wittenberg-Birnamwood

Dustin Riese

In a matchup featuring two of the best teams in the CWC Large Conference, the Bonduel Bears (13-1) faced off against the Wittenberg-Birnamwood Chargers (6-7) on Jan. 19.

Looking to keep their unbeaten record alive in conference, it was the visiting Bears who got off to a strong start, which had the Chargers looking for answers. Led by several big runs and terrific 3-point shooting, the Bears raced out to an early double-digit lead and never looked back as they took care of the Chargers 63-41.

“Our boys played tough defense tonight and had very balanced scoring with five players in double figures,” Bears head coach Duke Copp said. “Always a tough, physical game with Wittenberg, and I felt our boys met the challenge of playing against guys bigger and stronger than we are.”

The best way to get a team more physical than you is to play first, and the Bears had no problems doing that early on. With the game tied 2-2, Bonduel put the clamps on defensively, which forced the Chargers into several uncharacteristic errors. That led to a 12-0 run by Bonduel to open up a 14-2 lead. Race Anvelink was responsible for five of those points; he was one of five players in double figures.

“Played a tough Bonduel team tonight,” Chargers head coach Garrett Rogowski said. “Overall, we played well on the defensive end of the floor, stopped dribble penetration, closed gaps, but gave up too many offensive rebounds at the end of possessions leading to second- and third-chance opportunities.”

Despite facing a deficit early on, the Chargers did their best to chip away as Hayden Miller went inside for a pair of quick buckets to pull within 14-6. That opened things up for some of the Chargers’ shooters, and Boone Schairer delivered, making things 14-8. Every time the Chargers looked as if they were about to come back, Bonduel had another run in them as Ryan Westrich went inside for one of his many buckets, while Colin Margelofsky forced another turnover before going coast to coast for another layup.

The defensive pressure was something Copp was extremely happy with, and he cited it as one of the biggest reasons for this victory.

“We felt our defensive pressure was key to forcing some turnovers and getting some easy baskets,” he said. “We are still working to get better and improve each night out, but we continue to play well.”

Trailing by 11 late in the first half, the Chargers were hoping an Oliver Fraaza triple would be the bucket to close out the half strong, but it was Bonduel answering with a pair of triples from Quinn Wesenberg and Charlie Tauchen that opened up a 35-21 halftime lead for the Bears.

That lead only began to grow for the Bears in the second half as the Chargers had no answers for the Bears’ attack.

Even with Jett Rogowski picking up the first bucket to open the second half, Bonduel’s pressure continued to force turnovers as they continued to maintain a lead. Miller and Zander Barke refused to go down without a fight, as they answered those buckets by the Bears with two of their own to pull within 38-27.

It was at this point in the game where Bonduel was about to put things away, and once again it was the defensive pressure that made the difference. With every turnover they were forcing on the opposite end, the Bears got out running, leading to several easy layups on the other end.

It also led to their shooters finding open looks as Cade Johnson and Wesenberg connected on a trio of triples before the Westrich bucket inside capped off an 11-2 run to make things 49-31 Bears.

It was that run that Rogowski ultimately felt was the difference in the game as the Chargers just couldn’t get over the 10-point hump.

“It was just one of those nights,” he said. “We were put in a massive hole early and knew we had to battle our way out. I thought the kids did a great job of chipping away at the lead several times, but whenever we got close, they had all of the answers. Offensively, we had a lot of opportunities with good perimeter looks but didn’t shoot well from the field. The score doesn’t reflect the flow of the game, as it was closer throughout until the last five minutes of the game.“

Schairer managed to come away with a tough layup inside later in the game, but the Bears still led by 16. Trailing by 18 after Westrich went inside for another and one, Jaden Clark came away with a rare 3-point make for the Chargers as they pulled within 55-40 at that point. Unfortunately, for the Chargers, that was the final bucket they would score as Westrich and company ended the game on an 8-0 run to pick up the 63-40 victory.

On the three big runs the Bears had, they outscored the Chargers 33-4. That was the difference in the game as the Chargers outscored them 36-30 apart from those runs.