Columbus Catholic pulls past Spencer in Cloverbelt East boys basketball finale
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — The playoff brackets are already set, and the conference championship has been decided, but the Spencer and Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball teams played Monday’s game with all the intensity of a state tournament contest.
The lead changed hands four times in the second half before Columbus Catholic finally pulled away, knocking off Spencer 64-55 in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division season-finale at Spencer High School.
The Dons shot 52 percent overall and made seven of eight free throws in the final 1:10 to earn the victory, improving to 14-7 overall and finishing the Cloverbelt East season with a 13-3 record and a tie for second place with Neillsville.
“Our last two games, on the road against Owen-Withee and Spencer, very good teams, to be in close games in the fourth quarter and to come up big with Tyler making free throws at the end against Owen and four or five kids tonight make free throws, these are definitely some things we can build on,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said.
Spencer, which clinched the Cloverbelt East title last Friday, started the game on a 5-0 run and led the entire first half.
The Rockets pulled ahead 29-19 after Mitch Susa, Calvin Lenz, and Bobby Pilz each made a basket to cap a 10-2 run.
Columbus closed the half strongly with a 7-2 run in the final minute, which was punctuated by a basket by Matthias Gouin at the buzzer.
The run proved pivotal in the game as the Dons carried that momentum into the second half.
The Dons scored the first five points of the second half to tie the game for the first time, and from there the intensity grew, creating a playoff-type atmosphere in a gymnasium packed with fans of both teams.
The Rockets regained the lead at 38-34 after a basket by Lenz, who scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds, and a free throw by Pilz.
Columbus closed to within a point on rebound and basket by Ben Behling, but Pilz answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Spencer a 41-37 lead.
The Dons finally pulled ahead for the first time on a 3-pointer by Christian Payant only to see Susa score for Spencer in the final seconds, and the Rockets took a 45-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Give them credit. They shot the ball very well tonight,” Spencer coach Randy Reckner said. “They had a lot of guys that you don’t expect to hit big shots do it and spread the scoring around.”
The lead changed hands twice early in the fourth quarter. Gouin and Susa exchanged 3-pointers before Tyler Fuerlinger drilled a 3 with 4:12 to go, giving the Dons a 52-49 lead.
Spencer pulled back ahead after Pilz, who topped all scorers with 17 points, made a pair of hoops. The second basket put the Rockets up 53-52 with 3:14 left. Spencer would not make another basket from the field, and the Dons were able to pull away.
A basket by Billy Young put the Dons up for good with 2:53 remaining, and Evan Nikolai made a 3-pointer to up the lead to three.
After two Pilz free throws, the Dons finished the win off at the free throw line. Four different Dons combined to make seven of eight from the line in the final 1:10 as the Rockets failed to score during that span.
Young came off the bench and led the Dons with 13 points, hitting key baskets along the way.
“Billy was huge, and he had a career night,” Konieczny said. “The upside for him for the future is pretty endless. He’s improved throughout the course of the season. He’s an incredibly hard-working kid. For him to step up the way he did against a good team like Spencer, we’re very happy for him.”
Spencer (17-4, 14-2 Cloverbelt East) will play Eau Claire Regis in the first-place game at the Cloverbelt Conference Crossovers on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Osseo-Fairchild.
The Cloverbelt Conference has not announced whether Neillsville or Columbus will play in the second-place game against Fall Creek. The third-place game is Thursday at Altoona.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Dons 64, Rockets 55
Columbus Catholic 10 16 18 20 – 64
Spencer 16 15 14 10 – 55
COLUMBUS CATHOLIC (64): Billy Young 5-8 1-2 13, Hunter Schultz 3-10 3-4 12, Tyler Fuerlinger 2-3 3-4 8, Evan Nikolai 4-7 0-0 8, Christian Payant 2-3 3-4 8, Brett Loveland 2-3 1-2 5, Matthias Gouin 2-4 0-0 5, Ryan Dieringer 1-3 0-0 3, Ben Behling 1-1 0-0 2. FG: 22-42. FT: 11-16. 3-pointers: 9-21 (Schultz 3-8, Young 2-5, Fuerlinger 1-1, Payant 1-2, Gouin 1-2, Dieringer 1-3). Rebounds: 19. Turnovers: 12. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: none. Record: 14-7, 13-3 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.
SPENCER (55): Bobby Pilz 6-13 3-4 17, Mitch Susa 5-7 2-2 14, Calvin Lenz 5-8 4-7 14, Ryan Busse 3-6 2-3 8, Nate Mercier 1-7 0-0 2, Miles Weber 0-4 0-0 0, Dakota Andreae 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 20-45. FT: 11-16. 3-pointers: 4-16 (Susa 2-4, Pilz 2-7, Lenz 0-1, Mercier 0-4). Rebounds: 22 (Lenz 10). Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: none. Record: 17-4, 14-2 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.