ONALASKA — Whatever the Bangor High School boys basketball team needed down the stretch on Monday night, senior Luke Reader was more than capable of providing for the Cardinals.
Reader almost single-handedly held off Onalaska Luther and lifted Bangor to a 83-73 win in a nonconference game in front of approximately 900 fans at the Luther gymnasium.
Reader scored 21 of his career-high 36 points in the second half, including 17 of Bangor’s final 23 points.
The poise of the second-ranked Cardinals (17-1) — especially at the free-throw line, where they connected on 17 of 18 attempts — helped them withstand a frenetic pace unlike what they face in a traditional Scenic Bluffs Conference game.
“It was fun,” Reader said of the uptempo contest. “We don’t see many teams like that, especially in our conference. To get out and play a style of ball that we like to play is definitely fun.”
Reader, a UW-Eau Claire commit, was forced to step up the level of his play to match that of junior Emery Byus, who also scored a career-high 36 points for the Knights (10-10).
Byus had stretches where he carried his team and kept it close, including scoring 13 straight points late in the second half, and Bangor coach Jordan Laufenberg said that Byus was able to get his points despite good defense from the Cardinals.
“We just needed to make shots as difficult as possible, and the shots he was hitting, we had a hand in his face,” said Laufenberg, whose team is ranked No. 2 in Division 5 by The Associated Press. “Give the kid credit when (we) do that.”
Byus forced the pace in transition from the opening tip, scoring the Knights' first six points of the game,
“I was concerned about getting back defensively because we haven’t seen a team that plays as fast as they do,” Laufenberg said. “We’ve seen a couple (teams play that way), but they really try to fly back. I thought we could have done a little bit better in that area, but we responded well enough at the end of the game to limit what they were doing in transition.”
Bangor sophomore Grant Manke added 15 points in the paint against the 6-foot-10 presence of junior Bennett Loersch, who was held to nine points and seven rebounds.
The Cardinals held a huge advantage in the rebound department with a 51-36 edge, including 24 offensive rebounds. Senior Caleb Miedema finished with a game-high nine rebounds to go with his 14 points, while 6-foot-6 senior Cade Amborn added eight points and eight rebounds, many of which came against the taller Loersch.
“He’s definitely a presence in the post, but we just tell our bigs to go up like you always would,” Reader said of Loersch. “It doesn’t matter if you get blocked, you’ve just got to go up like you always do.”
Reader facilitated the Bangor offense early, finishing with seven assists, but Laufenberg was happy to see his leader shine brightest when needed most.
“He’s a great player,” Laufenberg said of Reader. “It’s good to see him step up in tonight’s game like that. It was good for him to take over down the stretch, which we know he can do, and it was good to see it again.”