Eau Claire (WQOW) -- Eau Claire North has strengthened it's grip on the boys Big Rivers Conference with an impressive road win over Rice Lake this past Friday night. The win moved the Huskies to 8-2 in conference play, giving them a game and a half lead in the standings with two Big Rivers matchups remaining.
The first of those matchups is tomorrow night, as North hosts Eau Claire Memorial. The Abes won the first "Crosstown Showdown" 55-52 in the Eagles Nest back in early January, but the Huskies enter round two on a four game winning streak, and they know what to expect the second time around.
"They're obviously really big with Cormac and Caden, so I really think we just need to control the size," senior forward Noah Hanson says, "Otherwise, when we get stops, push in transition, and look to take our speed into an advantage over them."
"Hopefully playing some of that experience, some of those teams that we have played, we've made a few adjustments to try to correct some little things early and improve at that," explains head coach Todd Marks, "But certainly it's going to be very difficult regardless of that just because of how big and strong, and how talented and experienced they are."
Meanwhile, the Old Abes are coming off a tough stretch, losing 4 of their last 5 games, including a close conference home loss to River Falls on Friday. Heading into tomorrow's matchup, Memorial is planning on playing to its strengths and focusing on ball security.
"You know, our post play is doing well, and we're getting it in there, but turning the ball over has been a little bit of a problem, so we've got to clean that up," says senior guard Bryce Burlingame.
"Our guards have to take care of the ball, cause with North's three guards you don't want to give them transition points, and that was what River Falls was able to get off of us in the second half," head coach Chad Brieske explains, "We know we have to step up to the challenge that awaits us, especially in the doghouse. At the same time we want to play well and show that we're on the rise as well."
Tipoff for the boys game is Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.
The North and Memorial girls will renew their rivalry right after the boys game ends, and this second matchup features a pair of teams hitting their stride at the right time. The Huskies won the first game 48-35 at the Eagles Nest, and enter tomorrow having won 3 of their last 4 games. But the Abes have 4 of their last 6, so North head coach Michelle Peplinski knows not to expect the same result.
"We feel like we're going to see a totally different Memorial team the second time around, so we can't look at that game very long and gain anything from it," Peplinski says, "We just have to play the game that's in front of us."
"We're definitely both very different," senior forward Liz Black says, "We've really found what we need to get accomplished, and everyone is filling their roles and we've been able to get over the hump. We've been so close in games and finally we're pushing through and winning."
Over the past couple weeks, Memorial's offense has found a new gear, scoring 50 points or more in home wins over Rice Lake, Chippewa Falls, and River Falls.
"We're moving the ball, we're not holding it nearly as long," says head coach Brandon Fanning, "We're getting much more cutting action towards the rim, and because more kids are touching the ball, it's given our defense much better energy as well."
"We just really learned to take the adversity that we faced in the first half of our season and translated that into the adversity we faced in our games, and we just took the pressure off," explains senior guard Emma Wright, "So I think that really helped us coming into these last few games."
Tipoff for the girls game is set for 8 p.m.