Boys Basketball: Strong defense helps Eagles past Wildcats

Four Menominee Indian players score in double figures
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

GRESHAM — The Menominee Indian High School boys basketball team ramped up its defensive pressure to pull away from Gresham in a Central Wisconsin Conference crossover battle on Tuesday.

Menominee Indian went on for a 77-55 victory in the season opener for both teams.

The game was a back-and-forth battle in the early stages of the game. Gresham pulled out to a 7-3 lead before Menominee Indian grabbed a 12-9 advantage.

The Wildcats tied the game on a 3-pointer from senior Waylon Welch before the Eagles turned up their defensive intensity.

Strong defense forced Gresham into turnovers and rushed shots, and Menominee Indian took advantage on the offensive end. The Eagles hit three 3-pointers, one each by junior Ashton Corn, senior Tiger Dixon and sophomore Allen Smith, during a 20-5 run.

“We know we got to hang our hats on the defensive end. That’s been the case for the last couple years and that’s definitely something that’s rolled over into this season,” said Menominee Indian coach James Oshkeshequoam. “We want to start on the defensive end because we know that’s where we can put all our effort on and know from experience that it helps transfer things over to the other side of the floor for us.”

Gresham continued to battle and was able to whittle the deficit down to nine behind some aggressive drives to the basket by senior Raven Bennett.

Menominee Indian regained control by ending the half on an 8-0 run, with senior Norman Kakwitch’s 3-pointer at the buzzer capping the half. Kakwitch scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half.

“It means a lot to us. It boosts our confidence,” said Kakwitch of the win. “But we have to make sure we stay level-headed because we have a very tough team (Iola-Scandinavia) coming up next and we’re looking to make the best of it.”

Gresham and Menominee Indian traded buckets to open the second half, before the Eagles put the game away with more pressure defense leading to easy baskets in transition.

Menominee Indian senior Menom Powless scored seven straight points, including five on fastbreak chances, to extend the visitor’s lead to 58-37.

The Eagles built the lead to as much as 28 points, 70-42, before coasting to the final buzzer.

Behind 10 second-half points, Powless finished with 14 points. Smith finished with 15 points, with 14 of those coming in the first half. Dixon scored eight points in the second half to finish with 11 for the game.

Seniors Raymond Fish and Mariano Lyons each chipped in with eight points.

In their next game, the Eagles open CWC-East play with a battle against Iola-Scandinavia on Dec. 5.

Gresham coach Jeff Zobeck was pleased with the way his team played for stretches of the game, but also saw some areas that his team could use some work in.

After Menominee Indian switched to a 2-3 zone in each half, Gresham had a difficult time adjusting.

“We struggled with their activeness on defense. We didn’t make very good decisions; we weren’t very strong with the ball,” said Zobeck. “We had some possessions where we just didn’t execute very well when they switched to a 2-3 zone.”

Zobeck said his team’s youth and inexperience showed a bit against a senior-heavy Menominee Indian roster, but was pleased with how the team reacted after the game.

“I think we learned a lot about how we are going to push forward throughout the season,” said Bennett, who paced the Wildcats with 12 points and also grabbed six rebounds. “We have the potential on this team, but we are really young still so I think we just have to put in the work.”

Junior Jake Hoffman added 10 points, while senior Lyle Welch had nine points and five assists. Sophomore Will Jensen tallied eight points, while sophomore Lukas Pecore pulled down seven rebounds.

The Wildcats will look to earn their first win when traveling to Pittsville on Tuesday.

Menominee Indian 47 30 — 77

Gresham 30 25 — 55

Menominee Indian (77): Tiger Dixon 2-3 11, Allen Smith 5-6 15, Menom Powless 2-4 14, Ashton Corn 0-1 3, Wendell Waukau 0-0 2, Raymond Fish 2-4 8, Norman Kakwitch 3-6 16, Mariano Lyons 0-0 8.

Gresham (55): Belasaire Vele 0-0 3, Waylon Welch 0-1 6, Lyle Welch 0-0 9, Will Jensen 2-4, 8, Raven Bennett 5-8 12, Lukas Pecore 1-3 5, Austin Sperberg 0-3 0, Jonah Surprise 2-2 2, Jake Hoffman 0-0 10.