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LA CRESCENT — After finding itself in an early back-and-forth battle, the Onalaska High School boys basketball team found the full throttle quickly thereafter in its nonconference game against La Crescent on Tuesday night.

The Hilltoppers used a big run to build their lead, and didn’t allow the Lancers to even sniff a comeback in an 86-52 win in front of approximately 900 fans at the Mac Dahl Gymnasium.

After a 3-point basket by Lancers senior Grant Nutter knotted the score at 11-11 just over five minutes into the game, Onalaska (6-0) responded with a 5-minute, 23-second stretch that had the Hilltoppers firmly in command at 31-13.

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Craig Kowal mug

Kowal

“We knew it was going to be loud and intense, and that La Crescent would come in ready to play,” Hilltoppers coach Craig Kowal said of the Lancers, who fell to 4-1. “We knew they were a very physical, strong team that hadn’t lost yet and so we knew that they were coming in with a lot of confidence. We just had to kind of weather the storm early, and once we got rolling, we played pretty good for the most part.”

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Stuttley

Junior Tyrell Stuttley scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, while sophomore Sam Kick had all 14 of his points before the halftime break as Onalaska took a commanding 48-23 lead into the locker room.

Kowal credited the defensive presence of the 6-foot-4 Stuttley and 6-foot-9 sophomore Gavin McGrath for giving La Crescent little room to operate and in turn, getting the Hilltoppers’ offense in gear.

“The biggest thing is that you have to get stops and you have to rebound the basketball,” Kowal said of the runs that Onalaska was able to make. “We got some nice rim protection inside with McGrath and Stuttley, and we got some bust outs and easy baskets as a result.”

The Hilltoppers were able to use the environment in the gymnasium to their advantage, including a pair of leak-out dunks by Stuttley. Those types of fast breaks typically started with a block or a contested shot by McGrath.

“They can play closer up on the 3-point line so that I can help on the drives,” McGrath said of the defensive approach. “We like playing in that (type of atmosphere). It’s fun for us. It’s more energy.”

The Hilltoppers came out of the halftime break with the same intensity, as junior Carson Arenz added 13 of his 19 points after the break to help Onalaska push its lead into the 30s.

Senior Jonathan Flanagan had 13 points for the Hilltoppers, while McGrath added 12 points to give Onalaska five players scoring in double figures.

“That’s our M.O.,” Kowal said of the balanced offensive attack. “Collectively, we have a nice team, and they share the ball and don’t care who scores. That’s how we have to do it. Get multiple guys in double figures and we did that tonight.”

Nutter led the Lancers with 15 points, while junior Zach Todd added 13 points.

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Chris Callaway can be reached at christopher.callaway@lee.net or on Twitter @CallawayTrib

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