NEENAH - Nathan Pronschinske did all he could Tuesday night.
The senior guard from Neenah hit six 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the first half as the Rockets trailed, 30-29, at the half in a key Fox Valley Association boys basketball game against Oshkosh North at Ron Einerson Fieldhouse.
North coach Frank Schade knew his team would have to control Pronschinske in the second half in order to have a chance and that's what the Spartans did.
Pronschinske scored eight second-half points (six coming on two more threes), all in the fourth quarter, and North defeated Neenah for the second time this season, 64-55, to pull into a first-place tie with the Rockets.
"I thought we executed real well in the second half, we hit free throws, we stayed out of foul trouble; the first half we had too many fouls for the way we want to play," Schade said. "The second half, I think we had four fouls, we shot 85 percent from the free throw line and outrebounded them. That's the only way you're going to beat them."
North, ranked No. 9 in the FOX 11 Top 11 boys poll, looks like a team that once again can make a run to the Division 1 state tournament. The Spartans, who lost in the state semifinals last season, were benefited by the fact Neenah big man, 6-foot-10 sophomore Matt Heldt, had more fouls (two) than points (one) in the first half.
Without Heldt manning the inside, North was able to go inside, where it likes to score.
"That's our game; we're going inside," Schade said. "We go inside-out. Cooper Radtke has some pretty good moves in there."
Radtke and point guard Nate Neveau led North with 19 and 18 points, respectively, but it was Neveau's creativity that stood out. Not only was he able to score, but he put pressure on Neenah with his ball handling.
"We lost two kids to knee surgeries, two starters," Schade said of Seth Taylor and Eliot Dyer. "Ever since then he's picked it up. He's looking for his shot more; he's always been able to handle the ball. It really has made him more effective and made us better."
Despite North's play it took a while for the Spartans to salt away the win. Heldt scored 12 second-half points for No. 2 Neenah, but fouled out with about three minutes to play.
His foul trouble was a plus for North, as Radtke (6-5), who leads the FVA in scoring at 19.8 points per game, likes to work inside.
"Our game plan is to get it inside to Cooper," Neveau said. "Usually whoever is covering him gets a couple fouls. It was nice to get the 6-10 guy out of there. It helps our offense and defense."
Neenah trailed, 53-47, at the time and never could get all the way back as North made 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Once again North's trademark 1-3-1 zone kept Neenah off balance but Pronschinske's did shoot holes in the defense, just not enough for the Rockets' sake.
"Our philosophy is 10 threes won't beat you, but they had 11," Schade said. "That's getting too close. They make it extremely difficult because of the big kid."
North is in position to grab a piece of its first FVA title since the 2008-09 season, but Schade isn't worried about that.
"We've never been a conference championship program," Schade said. "We're trying to get ready for the tournament. We couldn't ask for a tougher game than this. If things happen in that way in conference, then that's fine. We're trying to get ready for the tournament."
"Our goal is to get ready for the tournament," Neveau said. "I think we took a step forward tonight. Neenah's a very good team. It's always good to a get a win against a good team."
- 3-pointers: North won the teams' first meeting, 77-67. … North has won seven straight games, while Neenah's winning streak ended at seven games. … Neenah and North hold a three-game lead over third-place Kaukauna with four FVA games to play.
- Game ball: Neveau, who played big in a big game.
- Numbers game: 28 Points scored by Pronschinske in a losing effort.
Oshkosh North……19 11 11 23 — 64
Neenah…...........… ..21 8 9 17 — 55
Oshkosh North (15-3, 12-2): Nate Neveau 18, Nick Bauer 7, Turner Geisthardt 3, Cooper Radtke 19, Alex Madden 6, Blake Marquardt 11. 3-pointers: 5 (Neveau 2, Bauer 1, Marquardt 1, Geisthardt 1.) Totals: 21 17-20 64. Fouls: 12.
Neenah (15-3, 12-2): Nathan Pronschinske 28, Adam Pohlman 12, Matt Heldt 13, Sam Erickson 2. Totals: 19 6-8 55. 3-pointers: 11 (Pronschinske. 8, Pohlman 3). Fouls: 18. Fouled out: Heldt,
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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