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ONALASKA 61, FOX VALLEY LUTHERAN 39

WATCH NOW: Midwest Players Classic—Isaac Skemp's hot shooting sparks Onalaska boys in win over Fox Valley Lutheran

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Isaac Skemp made six 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 18 points.

Before T.J. Stuttley's skip pass out of a double team even arrived in Isaac Skemp's hands, Fox Valley Lutheran High School boys basketball coach Jay Wendland was on his feet and relaying a single instruction to his team.

"Run at!"

Skemp had already knocked down a pair of 3-pointers early in Friday night's Midwest Players Classic contest — both of them from the left wing — and Wendland didn't want to get burned by the sharpshooting Onalaska sophomore guard again.

But as Stuttley's pass forced Skemp beyond the NBA 3-point line on the La Crosse Center floor, his defender stayed near the college arc. Skemp briefly looked to swing the ball from his spot on the right wing to junior Jon Knickrehm at the top of the key before setting his feet and making his defender pay for not heeding Wendland's guidance.

As Skemp rose up, all Wendland could do was tell his team to box out. But there was no rebound to grab.

Skemp's hot shooting in the first half helped the Hilltoppers build a 12-point lead, and another triple from the sophomore in the second half sparked a run that allowed Onalaska pull away for a 61-39 win over a previously unbeaten Foxes team.

"So far this season, there's been teams that have not really helped off me," said Skemp, who led his team to its third straight victory since losing at Aquinas. "But, you know, I hit a couple to start and I was feeling it, so just launched it from deep and it went in."

Isaac Skemp mug

Skemp

Skemp made six 3-pointers — including five in the first half — for his game-high 18 points, and he followed his deep 3 from the right wing with another from the same spot on the next trip down the floor to put the Hilltoppers in front 18-8 with 12 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half.

"A couple of them were really deep," Onalaska coach Craig Kowal said with a laugh. "... It's fun to see him get going like that."

Fox Valley Lutheran (11-1) momentarily stopped the Hilltoppers (8-2) from growing their lead too much as junior Jackson Papendorf hit a 3 of his own from the right corner.

But Stuttley scored inside in transition off a feed from junior guard Nick Odom to spark an 11-0 run.

Odom dished out another assist less than a minute later — this one to junior Max Klein — as the Foxes placed an emphasis on keeping the ball away from Skemp.

But Skemp was able to get free for a 3 from the left corner in transition, and senior Michael Skemp followed with a triple from the opposite corner to push Onalaska's lead to 29-11 with 6:18 left in the half.

Stuttley finished with 14 points, while Michael Skemp was also in double figures with 13.

"Nicky's just amazing at finding guys. He's really good at attacking," Isaac Skemp said of the Hilltoppers' plethora of offensive options. "T.J., he's great in the post. Michael's also good, getting screens, rolling to the hoop. I mean, Michael can also shoot it and so can Nicky."

Fox Valley Lutheran cut Onalaska's lead to 31-19 at the half with an 8-2 spurt and stayed within 12 points early in the second half until Isaac Skemp buried his last 3 from the left corner off a baseline out-of-bounds play.

That started a 9-0 run, which gave the Hilltoppers a 47-26 lead with about 11 minutes to play.

"To come back and hit a 3 and get that momentum back in our favor, get them back on their heels was really important," Kowal said.

Onalaska was in control from there, in part because of a defensive effort that matched the offense's.

The Hilltoppers held the Foxes to 39 points — well below their season average of 75.5 entering Friday night — and limited senior Josiah Butler to 12 points; Butler entered the game averaging 26.5.

Onalaska mixed in a zone defense with its typical man-to-man to keep Fox Valley Lutheran from getting into a rhythm, while Michael Skemp proved up to the task in defending Butler in one-on-one scenarios.

"He's a ball player," Michael Skemp of Butler. "I mean, he's going — I think — DII. When he got by me a few times, it was just like, 'Wow.' I hadn't played that speed since (Caledonia's and Iowa State commit) Eli (King)."

Michael Skemp said he expects to see similar speed in Milwaukee Bradley Tech (7-4), who the Hilltoppers play in the MPC on Saturday. But Onalaska has momentum and confidence — Isaac Skemp in particular after shrugging off less-than-stellar shooting performances earlier in the season — going into its 3 p.m. matchup.

"Looking forward to that game, and hopefully we do the same thing tomorrow as we did tonight," Isaac Skemp said.

Eric Lee can be reached at eric.lee@lee.net or via Twitter @ByEricLee

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Sports reporter

Eric Lee is a sports writer with the La Crosse Tribune. He can be reached at 608-791-8228.

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