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Keeley leads La Crosse past Otis-Bison

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

La CROSSE -- The La Crosse High School boys' basketball team has athleticism, height and one of the state's top players in senior Kip Keeley.

However, the Leopards have started just 4-5, mainly because of offensive struggles. La Crosse has allowed just 45 points per contest, but has tallied just 49 a game.

On Friday, the Leopards enjoyed one of their stronger offensive performances in a 65-36 home victory against Otis-Bison, their Rush County rival. La Crosse shot 56 percent from the field, led all game and had a running clock at the end.

Four players tallied at least eight points, including a game-high 18 points from Keeley, who is averaging 20 a contest this winter. Keeley also had eight rebounds and three assists in a little more than three quarters of action.

"That's been our whole struggle -- scoring," La Crosse coach Rob Holopirek said. "We have defended well. It comes down to whether we can put the ball in the basket or not. We usually can get to spots that give us good looks. It's just putting those baskets in."

In its last contest, La Crosse lost 47-33 to Macksville. Three days later, the Leopards had many of the same looks they had against Macksville. This time, the shots dropped more frequently.

"I thought we played really good defense once again," Holopirek said. "The difference was, we hit shots tonight. Against Macksville, we played the same defense. We didn't make our shots that night. So, when we make shots, we are a lot tougher. It's hard when you don't make baskets."

Keeley had several nice passes for open shots, and Keeley and juniors Lucas Moeder and Taylor Yohe often scored on turnaround jumpers. Moeder and Yohe combined for 8 of 11 from the field for 20 points.

"We just really executed well tonight," Moeder said. "Everyone just knew what they were doing."

Coupled with a 59-44 victory Dec. 14, La Crosse moved to 2-0 against Otis-Bison this season. The Cougars, third and second in Class 1A, Division II the last two seasons, has encountered several big changes this year. Bryant Briggs, the junior high coach, took over for Alan Clark, now an assistant with the Barton County Community College women's team. Otis-Bison (3-7) graduated every starter except for senior guard Dylan Wissman.

Plus, senior Tyler Maier has played in just three games after he broke his hand in the last football game. Senior Justus Bartonek played Friday, but severely dislocated his finger and missed the last five contests before break.

"It's almost like starting completely over with our team," Briggs said. "... They are all trying to learn how to play together again. Hopefully by the end of the year, we will be clicking where we need to be."

Wissman, averaging 14 points a contest, had 23 in the first game against La Crosse. This time, La Crosse held Wissman without a field goal until he drove in for a layup with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left in the third quarter. At that point, La Crosse led 49-25. Wissman finished with 11 points on 2 of 15 shooting.

"They are an athletic bunch," Briggs said. "They just create mismatch problems for us. They are tall, We are not. They are tall and can jump, and Dylan, he still played well. Our offense obviously goes through him. They didn't want him to beat them again like he did last time, and they helped off well. I felt like we played well. We didn't give up."