A balanced, high-scoring, and team-first approach has paved the way for the undefeated Dons
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball team headed into Thursday’s game at Spencer with an unblemished record, putting up astronomical scoring numbers in the process.
The Dons (10-0 and 7-0 in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division going) have scored at least 76 points in nine of the 10 games, including 101 in their season-opening win against University School of Milwaukee and at least 81 in six-straight games at one point before having “just” 76 and 78 in a pair of wins last week.
Playing without senior center Brett Loveland, who suffered an injury during the Spencer/Columbus football team’s run to the Division 5 state championship game, the Dons have relied on a game of quickness, defensive pressure, and deadly outside shooting.
Juniors Tyler Fuerlinger and Hunter Schultz have each topped the 30-point mark in games this season, and senior Evan Nikolai and sophomore Nick Malovrh have also provided numerous double-digit scoring nights for the Dons. Seven different players have scored in double figures this season for Columbus.
“We’re fortunate that we have a number of players who can score, so we have a number of options,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “Our players have been very unselfish and willing to let it be someone different every night. They’ve been willing to take on whatever role is needed from them in each particular game.
“I also think the rule changes have also helped us be a high-scoring team. The games are four minutes longer, and we have a quick team that does a pretty good job getting to the free throw line, so we’ve spent more time in the bonus shooting free throws.”
Columbus Catholic finished in a tie for second in the Cloverbelt East last season, one game behind Spencer in the standings. After winning three conference titles between 2010 and 2014, the Dons are in prime position to capture another.
The Dons head into the second half of their conference slate Tuesday at Loyal. A road game at Neillsville is Feb. 5, and an interesting nonconference home game scheduled for Feb. 13 against Marawood South leader Marathon is on the horizon.
In order for Columbus Catholic, which is ranked No. 4 in this week’s Wissports.net Division 5 state coaches poll, to keep its winning streak alive, it will have to get better in a few key areas, Konieczny said.
“I think we need to continue improving defensively and become a better rebounding team,” Konieczny said. “We’re not a big team, so team defense and rebounding as a group are very important. Offensively, our players need to stay unselfish. They need to continue to care as much about their teammates’ success as they do their own. So far they’ve done that, and it’s been fun to be around.”
Selfless play has proven to be key for the Dons. Seniors Billy Young and Matthias Gouin and junior Charles Payant have provided depth for the team behind its top four scorers and have been able to contribute to help the team win.
“It’s exciting to go to practice every day,” Konieczny said. “I know it sounds cliché, but it’s amazing what can happen when no one cares who gets the credit.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Dons Schedule
Jan. 14 at Spencer
Jan. 19 at Loyal
Jan. 22 home versus Gilman
Jan. 30 Spring Grove (Minn.) at Onalaska
Feb. 2 home versus Colby
Feb. 5 at Neillsville