Friday night, North visited De Pere and the Redbirds were the ones hoping to be streak-stoppers. The Golden Raiders entered the game having won all 20 games this season, including 14 in conference.
De Pere, the two-time defending conference champs, hoped for payback, but in the end the Raiders were just too much. Boosted by guard C.J. Usadel and 6-3 twin towers Makenzie and Madison Wolf, North remained perfect with a 42-37 win.
Photo Gallery: Sheboygan North-De Pere
In the process, North (21-0, 15-0) clinched a share of the FRCC title, as it has a one-game lead over Notre Dame with one game to play.
“They’re just really good,” De Pere coach Dave Johnson said. “I thought they made a lot shots. I thought we did a good job on Makenzie and Madison. I thought we gave up too many easy buckets in transition. For me that was the difference, they got 10 or 12 points on us losing a kid.”
De Pere led 20-19 early in the third quarter, but then North took over. The Raiders pushed their lead to double figures late in third quarter and from there De Pere could never complete its game of catch-up.
The biggest problem in falling behind North is its defense. The Raiders play a 2-3 zone and with their size it is so difficult to find open looks. Many times De Pere players looked to rush their shots and the result was a miss.
“Their zone is so long, so athletic, so hard to find shots,” Johnson said. “We got shots, we just didn’t make them.”
Part of that reason is De Pere’s offense was pushed farther out on the perimeter.
“They get to you so fast and spread the floor,” Johnson said. “They play their big kids higher than a normal 2-3 zone. It forces you higher, too.”
While Johnson didn’t like the loss, he likes playing teams like North deep in the regular season.
“You want to see where you’re at, they expose you,” Johnson said. “It’s really good to see them again. It’s good to play good teams at the end.”
De Pere (13-6, 9-4) could see North again in the postseason as they are in the same bracket. Johnson likes the way his team his playing, mainly because players who hadn’t played much last season are now seasoned.
“We’ve been in games with everybody,” Johnson said. “We’re young; very few minutes from last year. It’s been a process. I think we’re playing our best now.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay