The West Salem and Black River Falls rivalry was on full display January 24 during the Coulee Conference weekend at the La Crosse Center.
“The La Crosse Center is a very different place to play for high school kids. There is no back drop behind the baskets and the ceiling is much higher than normal high school gyms. Depth perception is a little off for all players,” said head coach Mike Gaier.
Freshman Ethan Anderson says he had a lot of confidence coming into this game, but it was still nerve-wracking to walk in to the La Crosse Center knowing he and his team were taking on long-time rival West Salem.
“It was kind of intimidating at first walking in to a big arena to play a big basketball game, but I just had to focus and play hard like I have been the whole season,” said Anderson.
Baily Williams and the West Salem Panthers started the game strong, but the Tigers were right behind them. BRF Junior Jack Roou kept the Tigers fired up and did his job, scoring a game high 24 points that night.
“All I had to do was put the ball in the hoop and that would bounce off the other players. We knew that we had to play hard the whole 32 minutes to come out with a W,” said Roou.
Gaier’s strategy for the game: play hard for the whole 32 minutes.
“We prepared for the game just like always. We tightened up our offensive sets and tweaked out defensive scheme to take away their offensive tendencies. It wasn’t all me, though, the boys had to come into this game hungrier than ever, and they did just that,” said Gaier.
Senior Matt LaFaunge credited the strong family bond that the guys have this season.
“I can sense a strong love for each other within the team and passion to get better every day. Everyone is pushing each other day in and day out to have a more successful season. This year the guys have a bond that’s unbreakable. We have had each others back through out the whole season,” said LaFaunge.
An earlier version of this story stated that Ethan Anderson is the only freshman on the varsity roster. Freshman Isaac Cowles also plays on the varsity team.