EagleHerald/Brian Bell Levi Kempka of UWGB-Marinette prepares to go up against Sheboygan's Quentin Beaudoin during Saturday's game in Marinette.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell Levi Kempka of UWGB-Marinette prepares to go up against Sheboygan's Quentin Beaudoin during Saturday's game in Marinette.

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MARINETTE — The UWGB-Marinette men’s basketball team picked up its fourth win in a row on Saturday with a 77-66 triumph over UWGB-Sheboygan.

The Bucs offense looked out of sync for a second consecutive game, but the defense stepped up when it needed to and Marinette ended the game on a 17-7 run to move to 3-1 in the conference.

“It reminded me a lot of last Wednesday’s game,” Marinette coach Bryan Wickstrom said. “Offense was out of sync but defensively we played really well. Preston (Lauscher) had a big mismatch underneath with their 6-foot-7 guy but he held his own really well. We went a little deeper again because we had some foul trouble but all-in-all our defense played extremely well.

“Offensively we have to get in more of a rhythm. Our output just isn’t there yet. We scored 77 points but a lot of that was miscues on Sheboygan and we just have to get stronger offensively if we want to make a solid run at this.”

Marinette struggled to find its shots early on but took a 12-8 lead on a 3-pointer from the wing by Levi Kempka followed by a Connor Nelson steal and fast break layup. Jakob Voss then found a streaking Kempka for a full-court pass and Kempka finished the layup to go up 14-8 with 12:30 remaining.

The Wombats tied things up quickly with a pull-up three from Brian Seymour and a 3-point play inside from the 6-7 Dylan Martens. Voss reclaimed the lead for the Bucs with a corner three, but Sheboygan took it back on another pull-up three from Seymour and a 3-pointer from the wing by Caleb Broaddus to get out to a 22-17 advantage.

“Our pregame we really focused a lot on their big guy. We wanted to collapse and help from the perimeter, but be able to recover on the shooter and we only did half of that,” Wickstrom said. “We only did half and (Seymour) hit a couple big shots.”

Lauscher was fouled on a shot under the hoop and after missing the three-point play opportunity, Cam Willemsen skied for a tip-in to tie the game at 22 with eight minutes to play in the half. Marinette went on a run to get the lead after with a turnaround jumper from Lauscher followed by a three-point play from Jack Farley forcing Sheboygan into a timeout with 6:20 left.

Sheboygan came back to grab a 36-35 lead with under a minute to play in the first but an up-and-under layup from Jordan Janofski gave the Bucs a 37-36 lead heading into halftime.

The teams traded baskets and stayed within striking distance of each other the whole second half. Sheboygan scored the first five points out of the break to go up 41-37, but Kempka nailed a jumper, Willemsen cleaned up a missed free throw and Connor Heise sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 45-41 lead.

Sheboygan got within one after an Oscar Morales-corner 3-pointer but the Heise answered with an assist to a cutting Kempka and a wing-three on the next two Marinette possessions to keep a little breathing room at 65-59 with eight minutes remaining.

“Connor picked up a couple cheap (fouls) in the first half so we had to sit him a lot but overall he does a phenomenal job,” Wickstrom said. “He has control of the offense and knows when to shoot and when to pass.”

The Wombats did all it could to come back but the Marinette lead grew to 72-64 on a 3-pointer from Lauscher and the defense clamped down in the last five minutes to come away with a win.

“Without a doubt our focus is team defense and we work on it a lot,” Wickstrom said. “Obviously offense is a huge part but if you’re not shooting well at least you can get back and play tough defense, which we did. Once we start to shoot a little better we’ll be fine. It’s a new offense and we’re getting there. We’ve won four in a row and we’re tied for first place in our division so we’re happy right now.”

Kempka led the way for the Bucs with 18 points; Heise had 14 and five assists; Farley scored nine and Lauscher had eight points and eight rebounds.

Marinette (4-2, 3-1) hosts UWGB-Fox Valley on Wednesday.