EagleHerald/Billy Betts
Chandler Kaldenberg of Crivitz extends out past Coleman defender Evan Stank for a shot near the basket during their game in Coleman on Thursday.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts
Chandler Kaldenberg of Crivitz extends out past Coleman defender Evan Stank for a shot near the basket during their game in Coleman on Thursday.

COLEMAN — The first round in the boys basketball battle for the top spot in the Marinette & Oconto Conference in came down to the wire on Thursday.

Trailing most of the game at a in a packed Coleman gym, Crivitz played its best down the stretch and took the first of two season meetings by defeating the Cougars 57-49.

“Great win for us. It was a tough fight from the start and at moments we could have fallen apart,” Crivitz coach Jeff Baumann said. “Coleman gave us fits throughout the game, but we battled and never gave in.”

The Wolverines trailed until there were just over 14 minutes remaining in the contest when Eian Baumann drilled a 3-pointer to give Crivitz a 31-29 lead.

Coleman answered five minutes later by regaining the lead on a 3-pointer from Cayden Bintz to regain the lead, 38-37.

That started a 9-0 run in which the Cougars extended their lead to seven, boosted by a putback shot inside by Payton Nelson and another 3-pointer from Bintz, making it a 44-37 game with just under six minutes remaining.

Having trouble finding consistent shooting all night, the Wolverines got back to the basket and forced the Cougars to defend. Dawson Andrist got the ball rolling for Crivitz by sinking a free throw and then converting a three-point play to trim the deficit to three.

Following a Cougar timeout and turnover, Andrist converted on a floater in the lane. With just under three minutes remaining, Chandler Kaldenberg sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Crivitz back up 46-44.

Still ahead by just two with under two minutes remaining, the Wolverines ran the clock down to 50 seconds remaining behind stellar ball movement before Eli Lawrence found a hole in the Cougar defense to sink a basket inside, putting Crivitz up at 50-46. Six straight free throws during the final 30 seconds for the Wolverines put the game away and secured a Crivitz victory.

“We attacked the basket and hit big shots late in the game,” Baumann said. “We’re not the best shooting team, but we shoot a lot of free throws and it’s something we work on. I thought we closed the game really well.”

The Cougars led throughout the first half and were up by 10 points with just over three minutes left in the half behind three straight baskets inside by Evan Stank. After he scored again near the basket to make it a 25-17 game, Kaldenberg scored five straight points to cut the deficit to three at halftime.

“We were able to get inside early and converted on some nice transition baskets,” Coleman coach Tim Forner said. “Credit to Crivitz, they made some adjustments and started packing it in the paint on defense and we turned the ball over and our shots didn’t fall.”

Like they’ve been throughout the season, the Wolverines (9-2 overall, 7-0 in the M&O), were balanced offensively, with five players six or more points. Kaldenberg led the way for Crivitz with 15 points. Andrist had 11, seven of which came at the free throw line and Jaden Werner added nine.

“I thought Chandler really stepped up and made some big shots and Eian (Baumann) hit that clutch three to give us our first three,” Baumann said. “I’m really impressed with Coleman. We had to pick our poison and pack it in the paint defensively to have a chance to stop them. They just keep coming at you. It was good for us to get the win and take some pressure off knowing we can control our season more.”

Bintz paced the Cougars (7-5 overall, 6-1 in the M&O), with 15 points. Nelson finished with 10 and Stank chipped in eight.

“We made mistakes, especially at the end, but credit to Crivitz, they executed much better than we did,” said Forner. “When you have two evenly matched teams, it comes down to execution. We’re a young team still learning to win and we’ll bounce back from this one.”

M&O Boys Basketball

Conf. All

Crivitz 7-0 9-2

Coleman 6-1 7-5

Suring 5-2 8-3

Wausaukee 4-3 5-4

Oneida 4-3 6-4

Gillett 3-5 5-7

Lena 2-5 3-8

Niagara 1-6 1-10

STAA 0-7 0-9