The first and second half scripts were essentially flipped on Jan. 3 in a Wisconsin Little Ten Conference battle between Oconomowoc and undefeated Beaver Dam. After a strong first half, Oconomowoc faltered in the second and lost, 53-48.
OHS held a 34-18 lead but was outscored in the second half, 35-14. Zach Clayton scored 15 first-half points and finished with a game-high of 19.
"In the second half, (Beaver Dam) started hitting shots," Oconomowoc coach Kurt Melton said. "I think what did us in the second half was give up second-chance points, offensive rebounds and missed free throws. We shore up those areas, and I think it's a different outcome. I loved what we did in the first half. We stuck to the game plan and looked really good doing it."
Beaver Dam, the No. 7-ranked team in Division 2 according to the state coaches poll, began the second half on a 13-4 run and cut it to 3 with 11 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in regulation. At the 8:26 mark, Beaver Dam's Dillon Livingston made a basket for BD's first lead of the game.
Ben Nienhuis came right back at 7:51 with a field goal to help Oconomowoc take a 42-41 advantage. Oconomowoc trailed once again at 2:53, but Clayton's two free throws gave the Raccoons a 47-46 lead. Beaver Dam slowly pulled away from there with a basket from reigning WLT Player of the Year Garrett Nelson at 2:42.
Nelson, who scored a team-high 16 points, was limited in the first half by Oconomowoc.
"We have some pretty good man on defenders," Melton said. "Those guards do a nice job. All three who play him, whether it was (Dominic Briggs), Cameron (Briggs) or Jake (Rams), I thought they did a nice job on him. (Nelson's) slippery, man. He got through for a couple. He's a talented kid. To defend him like we did in the first half, I thought that was pretty good."
Oconomowoc started the game with a 10-0 run and led by 16 with 2:52 to go in the first half when Rams made an incredibly athletic play. To save the ball from going out of bounds, Rams leaped toward the scoring table, flung the ball in play, ran behind the Beaver Dam bench to get back on the court, received the ball and drove to the basket for a layup.
Rams scored all 8 of his points in the first half after getting in foul trouble in the second.
"What you don't know is he's battling a pretty wicked virus," Melton said. "That kid is a fighter, man. He played a great first half but we had to get him out here and there for breathers. Typically he's not coming out."
Melton was encouraged by Oconomowoc's first-half performance. OHS fell to 3-7 overall and 1-3 in the WLT.
"I really liked how we dictated tempo," Melton said. "I think we dictated how that game was going to be run. We were able to get good shots. Early on you saw (Dominic Briggs) with a couple layups and Zach with some wide open looks because we were going inside-outside. I thought offensively, our kids looked really sharp. I was happy with that, on top of the defense. I thought that's a good sign for us. It's a project and we're going to continue it."
OHS' great start was partly due to its solid shooting, but that aspect was held in check in the second half. Free-throw shooting was also an issue down the stretch as Oconomowoc made 5 of 12 attempts in the game (42 percent). Beaver Dam was 11 for 16 from the free throw line (69 percent).