Coaches often talk about weathering the storm of momentum. Being able to stop it, get through it and make plays in it.
That's what the Oshkosh North boys basketball team did on Tuesday night as the Spartans went into Neenah and grabbed a big Fox Valley Association win over the Neenah Rockets 64-55 in Ron Einerson Fieldhouse.
"Neenah is a very tough team," Spartans senior forward Alex Madden said. "Especially coming here on an away game, it's a big stepping stone for us for the playoffs."
The game was back and forth throughout the contest as both teams traded blows like heavyweight fighters.
The Spartans entered the fourth quarter with a three-point lead that was quickly erased by a Adam Pohlman 3-pointer, which tied the game at 41.
The two teams traded baskets before North's Nate Neveau struck with a three-point play midway through the quarter to go up 46-43.
Neenah continued to punch with two Matt Heldt buckets, but North answered both with another Neveau basket and a big 3-pointer from Blake Marquardt that put North up 51-47 with 3 minutes left to go.
The Rockets wouldn't go away however, as Nathan Pronschinske twice hit 3-pointers to make it a one-possession game, the later of which came with just half a minute left and made it 57-55 North.
The dagger, however, came just a few seconds later, as the Spartans beat the Neenah press and found Marquardt for a layup and Neenah was called for an intentional foul. The Spartans would get the ball back and score off the inbound to make it 61-55.
North would ice the game with free throws after that.
"We executed down the stretch and got some nice buckets," Neveau said. "We shot 85 percent from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, so that's always big. Just the little things helped us out."
The first half was a bit different than the second half, as both teams came out revved up offensively as the first quarter ended 21-19 Neenah.
A lot of that came from Pronschinske, who hit four 3s in the quarter. He finished with a game-high 28 points and eight 3-pointers for the Rockets.
But in the second half, North made an adjustment on defense and got the game more towards their liking.
"They were knocking down some shots right away," Neveau said. "We had to get to the shooters and Adam (Pohlman) always creates stuff in the lane, so we packed it in a little."
The Spartans also got a lot of contributions from everyone in the victory. North got 19 points from Cooper Radtke, 18 from Neveau and 11 from Marquardt.
But arguably the bigger contributions came from those not named Radtke, Neveau and Marquardt. Nick Bauer hit a 3-pointer on his way to seven points and the Spartans got a big boost off the bench from Madden, who stepped in for Marquardt when he was in foul trouble in the second and third quarters.
Madden scored six points for the Spartans and made numerous little plays while he was in the game that keyed North's victory.
"Alex Madden really helped us tonight," Spartans coach Frank Schade said. "On the boards, he hit big free throws, he was active and got deflections."
All-in-all, it was a big team win for the Spartans, who moved to 12-2 in the FVA and, having swept the Rockets in the season series, puts them in prime position to win a conference title with just a few games remaining.
Even so, North is still worried about the bigger picture.
"We are just trying to get ready for the tournament," Schade said. "We couldn't ask for a tougher game than this. If things happen that way as far as conference, as we go, that's fine, but we are trying to get ready for that tournament."
Notes: Neenah's Pohlman was hit with a technical foul at the end of the game. ... North scored 15 points in the first half off of eight Neenah turnovers.
Game ball: Madden. The senior stepped in when he was needed and played hard when Marquardt was out with foul trouble.
Numbers game: 16, the number of free throws hit by the Spartans in the second half. They shot 16-of-18 in the final two quarters in the victory.
Oshkosh North...19 11 11 23 -- 64
Neenah...21 8 9 17 -- 55
Oshkosh North: Neveau 18, Bauer 7, Geisthardt 3, Radtke 19, Madden 6, Marquardt 11. 3-pointers: 5 (Neveau 2, Bauer, Geisthardt, Marquardt). FTs: 17-20. Total fouls: 12.
Ne enah: Pronschinske 28, Pohlman 12, Heldt 13, Erickson 2. 3-pointers: 11 (Pronschinske 8, Pohlman 3). FT s: 6-8. Total fouls 15. Fouled out: Heldt, Pohlman.