Onalaska's Hank Olsen

Onalaska's Hank Olsen has the ball tipped away by Logan's Calvin Mavin and CJ Siegel in the first half of Monday's game. The first-place Hilltoppers won 61-55.

The Onalaska High School boys basketball team raced out to a 20-point first-half lead against Logan on Monday, but the Hilltoppers had to hold on for dear life down the stretch.

Sophomore Carson Arenz scored 20 of his career-high 26 points in the first half as third-ranked Onalaska held on to beat the Rangers 61-55 in front of approximately 1,000 fans at the Logan fieldhouse.

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Onalaska's Carson Arenz

Onalaska High School sophomore Carson Arenz takes the ball to the lane as Logan's Floyd Thomas tries to defend during Monday night's MVC game at Logan. The third-ranked Hilltoppers fought off a big comeback by the Rangers to win 61-55 and remain unbeaten in the MVC.

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The Hilltoppers (16-1, 9-0 MVC) led 42-22 in the closing seconds of the first half, but Logan senior CJ Siegel scored a game-high 28 points to help the Rangers (8-9, 5-4) claw back into the game.

“One of the hardest things to do when you have a big lead against a good team, is to hang on,” Onalaska coach Craig Kowal said. “If you get too passive, you get yourself in trouble.

“We got a little passive at times, and we had chances to attack at times and finish shots, and we didn’t.”

After a 3-pointer by Arenz gave the Hilltoppers a 46-27 lead with 15 minutes, 43 seconds to play, Logan went on a 12-3 run to close the deficit to 10. A deep 3-pointer by junior Calvin Mavin cut the Onalaska lead to seven with 3:27 remaining, and a driving basket by Mavin whittled the Hilltoppers’ lead to 56-52 with 1:06 left.

“ It’s really hard playing with a lead because you don’t want to take quick shots, but you don’t want to be passive either,” Kowal said. “It’s kind of a happy medium in between there.

“We have to do a better job in situations where we have a big lead but to their credit, they’re a good team, kept playing, and battle back.”

Onalaska made just 6 of 12 free throws in the closing 2:24, but the Rangers were unable to find the basket they needed to draw even. The Hilltoppers ran their winning streak to 15 games, while Logan (8-9, 5-4) saw its five-game winning streak come to an end.

“It’s one of the harder things, especially playing at their place on a Monday night,” Hilltoppers senior Noah Skifton said of his team’s ability to persevere. “I think we just had to be strong with the ball and knock down the free throws, which we really didn’t do at the end, but we were lucky enough to hold on.”

Siegel connected on four 3-pointers, most of which came on tough, contested looks, as Onalaska did its best to contain the supremely athletic 6-foot-1 senior.

“The first game, we did a really good job on him defensively, and he didn’t play his best game, so I knew he’d come out with fire in his eyes tonight and play a really good game,” Kowal said of Siegel, who was held to eight points in the Hilltoppers’ 71-46 win over the Rangers on Jan. 5. “He had 28, but I thought he had to work and earn them. We gave him a couple, but for the most part, they were just tough, contested CJ-type shots.

“We said that we just had to make him earn it, and then try to match him whenever you can. I’m proud of my team.”

Sophomore Tyrell Stuttley added 11 points for Onalaska, while Skifton chipped in with nine. Mavin scored 12 points, including eight in the second half for Logan.

Skifton said that with much of the Rangers’ defensive focus on him, Arenz was able to take advantage, connecting on four 3-pointers and shooting 10-of-13 from the field.

“They were focusing a lot on me, and they weren’t respecting Carson enough,” Skifton said. “Carson had a (heck) of a game. He was shooting the lights out.”

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Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.