ONALASKA — The Caledonia High School boys basketball team was able to come back once, but Onalaska's Nick Odom, Sam Kick and Gavin McGrath made sure it didn't happen a second time.
The Warriors used a big run to take a four-point lead midway through the second half, but a timely 3-pointer by Evan Gamoke and several forced turnovers down the stretch allowed the Hilltoppers to claim a 51-43 victory in a battle between area heavyweights at Charles Deeth Fieldhouse on Friday.
Onalaska (10-0), which is tied for the No. 1 ranking in Division 2 by The Associated Press, scored the final 13 points and held Caledonia (2-1), which is ranked third in Minnesota's Class AA, scoreless after a Casey Schultz 3-pointer gave it a 43-38 lead with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left.
To reiterate, the Hilltoppers held the Warriors scoreless for more than five minutes after they opened the season by scoring 96 and 94 points in their first two games.
"We wanted this one really bad," said Gamoke, whose 3-pointer with 2:18 left snapped a 43-43 tie and started the game-closing run. "We knew what we had to do. We had to lock them down on defense, and I thought we did a pretty good job.
"But that's a tough team to defend. They are long and all really good athletes."
Onalaska's active hands during crunch time were as big of a reason as any for the victory, which was played in front of just under 250 people — a loud group if not large — in the bleachers.
Odom, a sophomore, forced three turnovers in the final nine minutes, and Kick and McGrath each had one in the final minute to help their team hold in in a game the Warriors led 40-36 after Schultz scored with 8:29 left and 43-38 after his 3-pointer.
The performance allowed Onalaska to claim another quality victory in a game where it dictated the pace and made the bigger plays.
The Warriors made their final run at the Hilltoppers by scoring nine straight points and turning a 36-31 deficit into the 40-36 lead. Austin Klug scored five of those points, and the Schultz basket that capped the run followed a steal under the basket after Onalaska rebounded his missed shot.
McGrath, who scored all eight of his points in the second half, was fouled and made two free throws after corralling an offensive rebound. He then scored with an assist from Kick, and Victtor Desmond tied the game at 43 on a three-point play with 4:11 to go.
Odom found Gamoke open the for the go-ahead 3 on a pass from the right side of the 3-point arc to the left. Gamoke shot without hesitation and snapped the tie.
"That was the biggest shot of the game," Onalaska coach Craig Kowal said. "We made some (shots) earlier, but I think he'd missed his previous two.
"But that is what he's supposed to do. He's a tough-minded kid, and he's waited for a moment like this, so it's good to see him step up."
The Warriors only had five players score, and senior Andrew Kunelius led the way with 12 points. Klug added 11 and Sam Privet 10 for Caledonia.
Gamoke's 15 points led Onalaska, which also received 14 from Kick and eight apiece from McGrath and Desmond.
Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX