HURLEY - The Hurley Midgets barely found their basketball shoes and they were playing one of their biggest games on the schedule Monday.
After trailing almost the entire second half, Hurley forced overtime and pulled away for a 67-57 victory over Chequamegon.
Besides giving the Midgets (2-0) some needed early-season confidence, the victory will go a long way towards postseason seeding. Chequamegon (5-1) is the only team from the WIAA Division 4 regional that Hurley plays during the regular season and head-to-head meetings are among the biggest considerations at seeding meetings as the Midgets look for a second consecutive No. 1 seed in late February.
There may have been a lot of ugly basketball Monday - 22 turnovers against Chequamegon's pressure and allowing 16 second-chance points in the first half, for example - but Hurley's play down the stretch was a thing of beauty.
"It's a special win, to climb, climb, climb and battle all game long and catch a team at the buzzer and then finish them off in overtime," Hurley coach Gary Giancola said. "I would expect it would carry over and be a confidence builder.
"We made the plays during crunch time on both ends of the floor. We made stops and executed on the offensive end. Say what you want about the offense. When it came down to key possessions, I thought we showed the poise and patience and got good looks on the key possessions. It was a good win for our group this early in the year."
Hurley was led by Jake Colassaco's 26 points. He's recovering from a football injury, not that anyone could tell that Monday.
Playing important games like this so early aren't easy.
"You just don't want to mess up," Colassaco said. "The crowd's loud and the coach is yelling. It's just a lot of fun."
Hurley never took a second-half lead as the Screaming Eagles always seemed to stop a rally and pull back ahead by four points.
Chequamegon did it again, taking a 53-49 lead with about a minute left in the game. It seemed like a game-winning shot at the time.
Hurley's Jared Wendt, though, answered with a basket with 50 seconds left. Twenty-five seconds later, the Midgets fouled Chequamegon's Shane Wakefield. He missed the first in the single bonus situation.
"We gave them a little light there and they took advantage of it," Chequamegon coach Thomas Wilkins said.
Colassaco kept the ball himself and drove for the tying layup with 15 seconds left. It was 53-53. He had the option to dump it down to Mark Saari or James Sukanen, but the lane opened up for him.
"My teammates set a pick and I just drove to the hole and got a nice bounce off the rim," Colassaco said. "It was a big momentum builder for us. We built off that into overtime."
Malachi Bush missed a go-ahead shot, and Hurley called timeout with 6 ticks on the clock.
Colassaco passed to Mitchell Maki, whose good look on the side by the Hurley bench didn't fall, meaning overtime.
"They did a good job of jumping Jake and Jake did a good job of getting the ball to Mitch," Giancola said. "Boy that baby looked right on. It sure looked good from where I was sitting. Just a little bit more arch and that baby would have been down."
That miss didn't slow Hurley down.
"A lot of teams would have come back out of that, well, that was your shot right there," Giancola said. "Our kids would just not be denied. They knew the importance of this game."
The teams traded baskets early in overtime and it was tied 57-57 on a James Sukanen putback with 3:07 left. Sukanen scored six points in overtime.
A minute and two misses by each team later, Jared Wendt sank a hook shot from the free throw line. The Midgets scored the rest of the points. Colassaco made it a four-point advantage; he then dished to Sukanen, who scored to put Hurley up six. The Midgets made 4 of 7 free throws after that.
"I can't say enough about the job Sukanen did overtime," Giancola said. "He really asserted himself. I thought he got stronger as the game went on."
Chequamegon had opportunities to pull away, leading by as many as eight points (46-38) late in the third quarter.
"We rushed some shots," Wilkins said. "Our offensive structure wasn't the best tonight. They've got a nice team. They deserve to win. We have a nice team, too. We played good in spurts, had a nice lead on them and let it get away from us."
Giancola said he thought Hurley wore down Chequamegon, kind of like the football team did to a lot of opponents. The Midgets gave up 32 in the first half and 25 in the second half and overtime combined.
"We said before the season we were going to hang our hat on being physical and being tough because that's what we're noted for. We're Hurley," he said. "We knew we weren't going to be off to a good start and be polished offensively because of the great run we had in football. Our kids are still playing football. We're running with the ball before dribbling, things like that."
Giancola upgraded Colassaco's ankle to 75 percent from 60 percent after his fantastic performance.
"It feels really good," Colassaco said. "Not 100 percent yet, but it's really close."
Wakefield had 16 points to lead Chequamegon. Cody Eder had 14 and Bush scored 10, eight under his season average, thanks to some stiff defense by Maki, a very athletic sophomore.
Hurley doesn't get time to enjoy the victory as it goes to Washburn tonight. The Castle Guards are heavily favored to win the West Division in the Indianhead Conference, but this first of two meetings between rivals is a non-conference game.
Chequamegon - Malachi Bush 10, Tanner Byholm 3, Will Lee 4, Cody Eder 14, Benjamen Godleske 2, Shane Wakefield 16, Bryan Jean 2, Justin Herbst 6. FTs: 7-13. Fouls: 19. Fouled out: Wakefield. 3-pointers: Eder 1, Wakefield 1.
Hurley - Jake Colassaco 26, Jared Wendt 15, James Sukanen 16, Mark Saari 3, Mitchell Maki 7. FTs: 10-17. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Colassaco 3.
Chequamegon 17 32 46 53 57
Hurley 16 31 42 53 67