You can win for losing
A narrow defeat at the hands of mighty Auburndale has given Spencer added confidence
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — The Spencer boys basketball team feels that it will contend for the Cloverbelt Conference East Division title and that it could make a deep run in the WIAA playoffs come March.
The Rockets cemented those thoughts after, of all things, their first loss of the season last weekend.
Spencer overcame a 13-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter against perennial power Auburndale only to lose 53-52 in the nonconference game at Spencer High School last Saturday.
The Rockets moved on quickly, pounding Gilman 67-33 in a Cloverbelt East matchup on Tuesday to improve to 6-1 overall and to remain undefeated at 5-0 in the conference.
Members of the coaching staff and team took the loss in stride Saturday. The game went down to the final seconds with the Rockets missing a shot at the buzzer, but they did learn that they can play with anyone and are poised to make this a memorable season.
“They’re the team that if you want to look at someone around here to beat, they are it,” Spencer coach Randy Reckner said of Auburndale. “To put ourselves in that position to be in a game with those guys, that’s a credit to us as a team. I thought my kids played really, really hard, and I think they gained a lot of confidence in themselves as basketball players.”
Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said Spencer roughed his team up during a summer league game this past offseason. So he was quite pleased to sneak out of the Rockets’ home gym with a victory.
“(Spencer) is a very good team,” Weinfurter said. “I would fully expect them to win their conference. No disrespect to the other teams, but they are good. They’re in our regional. So we may see them again.”
Spencer has just three seniors on its roster but has a lot of varsity experience. Six of the players in their regular rotation have played on the varsity team the last two seasons, some as freshmen.
Junior guard Bobby Pilz is one of them. He leads the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game and has hit 9 of 13 shots from 3-point range over the past two games.
Pilz is the Rockets’ main ball-handler as well and wants to push the tempo whenever he can.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Pilz said. “I think we’re where we should be. We like to run. We like to move. We like to push the ball.”
Senior Nate Mercier has also developed into an outside threat for the Rockets.
Mercier has come off the bench to make 11 3-pointers and score 33 points combined in the last two games. He also hit five 3-pointers in a win over Granton in mid-December.
Mercier made six-straight 3-pointers in the loss to Auburndale, draining shots from every angle around the arc.
“Bobby’s a very, very good player,” Reckner said. “You could put him up there with any of the best players in the area. He can shoot the ball. Nate’s got the potential to do that. He really stepped up and hit big shots all the way along (Saturday).”
Senior Miles Weber and junior Dakota Andreae provide size inside for the Rockets, and juniors Calvin Lenz, Jonathan Tomke, and Ryan Busse, and senior Mitch Susa round out the perimeter.
Spencer remains the only undefeated team left in the Cloverbelt East and finishes off the first half of its conference schedule over the next week with a home game Friday against Colby and a game at Columbus Catholic on Jan. 15. The Rockets have lost 14-straight conference games to Columbus.