This week the Roncalli boys basketball team basically had the fate of the Olympian Conference in its hands.
Monday, the Jets hosted Brillion and Thursday they hosted Valders, the two closest teams to the Jets in the conference standings. Roncalli took care of Brillion, so a win Thursday would all but give Roncalli the league title, save an unexpected drop in play.
Valders and Roncalli were tied at halftime, but it was the third that spelled the difference. Roncalli outscored Valders, 13-6, in the frame and that enabled the Jets to hold on to a 54-46 win.
With the win, Roncalli (15-1, 12-0) has a three-game lead over Valders, Brillion and Wrightstown
in the loss column with six games to play.
“Our top of our conference is really competitive,” R
oncalli coach Joe Rux said. “Trying to get a little space between teams before the final push was what we’re attempting to do.”
Early on Valders opened an 11-3 lead, but by the end of the first quarter it was 13-all. At halftime, it was 25-all. But just like the teams’ first meeting, when Roncalli outscored Valders, 26-12, in the third quarter en route to a 53-43 win, the third quarter was the difference again.
The Jets, ranked No. 7 in the FOX 11 Top 11, outscored the Vikings, 13-6, and kept the lead the rest of the way. Rux said the difference in the first half and third quarter was matchups.
“I think we got some matchups we liked and were able to take advantage of them,” he said. “We made some adjustments. Josh Erickson, that was the big adjustment; he got around the paint and got to the rim.”
Erickson, a 6-3 forward, scored a game-high 22 points as he didn’t settle for perimeter shots, but drives to the basket.
“Josh has been doing that a lot of for us this year,” Rux said. “He’s been a key piece to our puzzle all year.”
Despite the eight-point win, Valders trailed 50-46 with possession in the final minute. It appeared the Vikings (13-3, 9-3) had a chance to steal this game and if they did it would have been because the Vikings never backed down.
“We talked at it in the beginning of the game how we thought that team was going to come at us hard,” Rux said. “They pressured us the entire way. They’re not going to give up.”
Roncalli held off the Vikings’ last gasp and went 2-0 against two of its biggest contenders for the conference’s top spot.
“It’s big any week to go 2-0 in this conference,” Erickson said. “We had to prepare tough and be ready for these teams.”
“Any time we can get a win over a top-three team in the conference it’s always fun; especially against a close school like this. We always have a close game against them. Student section is getting into it. It’s always fun.”
While Roncalli is in the driver’s seat in the conference it’s not going to let up. The Jets’ goal has not been accomplished yet.
“Same thing what we’ve been doing all season, pedal to the metal,” said Erickson when asked what the team’s mentality will be to end the regular season. “We want to finish with an undefeated record in the Olympian.
Thursday, Roncalli took a big step in doing just that.
- Notes: The last time Roncalli won or shared the league title was 2010-11, when it shared the title with Brillion with a 17-1 record. … Forrest Fenlon led Valders with 18 points. … Valders next plays against St. Mary Central on Saturday. … Roncalli plays five of its final six regular season games on the road, including Saturday at Reedsville.
- Game ball: Erickson, who scored 22 points.
- Numbers game: 3 Game lead Roncalli has in the Olympian Conference.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay