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The Onalaska High School boys basketball team didn’t walk out of its locker room a happy one as it prepared to start the second half of an MVC game against Logan on Friday.

The Hilltoppers had a 16-point first-half lead cut to seven before the break, and they weren’t pleased with the way they played.

Junior Dakota Mannel seemed to take it personally and took over to lead fifth-ranked Onalaska to a 63-36 victory over the Rangers at the Logan fieldhouse.

Mannel had a hand in the first 10 points of a 14-2 run that gave the second-place Hilltoppers (14-3, 7-1) control again and a win in its first game since a 76-60 loss to Minnehaha Academy (Minn.) on Saturday.

“I felt like it was my job to get the team going,” Mannel said. “We were stagnant at the end of the first half and had to get into a flow again.”

Mannel started things with back-to-back 3-pointers. He followed those up with an assist to Gavin McGrath and turned a steal into an easy basket for Sam Kick two possessions later.

MVC BOYS

Team Conf. Overall
Central 7-0 13-2
Onalaska 7-1 14-3
Holmen 3-4 6-8
Aquinas 2-4 5-11
Sparta 2-5 9-7
Logan 2-5 7-9
Tomah 1-5 5-9

By the time Mannel stepped back, Onalaska had turned a 22-15 halftime lead into a 32-17 advantage. Tyrell Stuttley scored the last two baskets of the run and gave the Hilltoppers a 36-17 lead with a drive to the basket as 11 minutes, 39 seconds remained.

“He loves to compete, and he just finds ways to help us,” Onalaska coach and Logan graduate Craig Kowal said of Mannel, who had all 10 of his points in the second half. “He can knock down 3s and get to the basket, but I think his biggest asset is on the defensive side. He isn’t very tall, but he has long arms and gets his hand on the ball a lot.”

Mannel also used those arms to tip a ball off a Logan player and create another turnover during the run that started the half.

Stuttley’s 16 points led all scorers, and Kick matched Mannel’s 10 for Onalaska. Junior Jhakai Funches led the Rangers (7-9, 2-5) with 10 points.

Mannel excelled when the Hilltoppers needed him to move within a half-game of first-place and second-ranked Central (13-2, 7-0), which beat them 74-56 earlier this season. Those teams meet again on Feb. 12 at Onalaska.

Dakota Mannel mug

Mannel

“I am more of a facilitator who tries to get people where they need to go,” said Mannel, who averages 6.6 points per game and reached double figures on Friday for the third time. “I try to get the energy going and take what the defense gives me. I take it my hands when the time is right for that.”

Mannel also followed up Logan’s basket to end that run with an immediate drive to the basket that stopped the Rangers from getting into a flow.

“We started to attack the hoop and make some shots (at the end of the half),” Logan coach Andy Fernholz said. “It’s important for us to be consistent on the offensive end, and we went into some droughts tonight, and those hurt us.”

Logan missed a couple of shots from point-blank range early in the game, but it got a little sloppy and lost its shooting touch after Jacksun Hamilton scored to cut the Onalaska lead to 5-4.

The Hilltoppers scored the next 15 points and had a 20-4 lead by the time Carson Arenz followed a Logan turnover with a layup as 6:40 remained in the half.

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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at Todd.Sommerfeldt@lee.net or via Twitter at SommerfeldtLAX

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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.