NIAGARA, Wis. — To many of us, 3:30 p.m. is the sleepy time of the day. Apparently not for the Three Lakes boys basketball team.
The Blue Jays, playing in the second game of a girls-boys doubleheader at Niagara on Tuesday, were wide awake at tip-off time. And just a bit more than three minutes into their nonconference game against the Badgers, the Bluejays had ripped off 17 straight points and were never threatened in their 74-29 victory over host Niagara.
Sophomore Jared Kaufman, senior Ashton Maney and senior Logan Erickson all splashed 3-pointers to begin the blitz.
Three Lakes coach Brian Diorio shared a possible reason why his team was chomping at the bit.
“It’s been kind of a slow start to our season,” he began. “We haven’t played since (Dec. 9) because of weather and a rescheduled game, and I think the kids were sick of practice and maybe they just took it out on Niagara today.”
The senior-laden Bluejays also brought a physical edge that the Badgers, with their roster of all underclassmen, simply couldn’t stand up to. Niagara coach Terry Youren admitted as much afterward.
“The bottom line is that’s an excellent team,” the veteran coach said. “They play very, very strong defense and they’re in your face constantly. They’re very physical and very strong, and they’ve been together for awhile. That makes a world of difference.
“And we’re not there yet,” Youren added. “But you know what, we’re going to keep our heads up and keep plugging away and hopefully some good things will start to happen.”
Niagara (3-4) got on the board at the 14:02 mark of the first half on a driving layup by junior guard Aiden Colenso. Junior forward Logan Weber sank a short jumper and junior guard Edward Swanson sank two free throws as the Badgers pulled to within 11.
However, Maney buried consecutive 3-pointers and Kaufman hit a short jumper in the lane as the Bluejays stretched their lead back to 25-6.
Niagara put together its best stretch of offense in the final 6:46 of the first half on six points from sophomore reserve Blake Holmes, and two each from freshman Tommy Martin and Swanson to go into the break down 25-18.
The teams went back-and-forth a bit in the early moments of the second half, but the Bluejays took flight again with a 21-2 run that left them with a 67-23 margin as a running clock sped up the final five minutes.
Three Lakes (3-3) had four double-digit scorers, led by Maney’s 19 points. Senior post Sam Eppler scored 14, while senior wing Cole Melton and Erickson added 12 each.
“We’ve got some size and we knew Niagara didn’t have a whole lot in that department, so we tried to use that to our advantage,” Diorio said. “I wouldn’t say we try to intimidate, but we’re not going to back down. We try to get the ball (in the lane and post) when we can and tonight we were fortunate that our outside shots were falling, too. It was some of the best basketball we’ve played.”
Swanson topped the Badgers with nine points. Holmes chipped in with six and Colenso had five. Martin, who has burst on the scene in the first month of his initial prep season, was held to just four points in the contest.
Jerry DeRoche can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 247, or at [email protected]