Auburndale girls basketball seeks just third conference crown in program history
By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE — This year’s Auburndale girls basketball team is looking to make history.
Entering Thursday’s game at Northland Lutheran, the Apaches needed wins over the Wildcats and at Pittsville on Friday to clinch a share of their first-ever Marawood Conference South Division championship.
Auburndale recently avenged its only losses of the season when it beat Wisconsin Rapids Assumption 37-34 on Jan. 28 and Marathon 55-45 on Feb. 5 to improve to 8-2 in the Marawood South. Marathon and Assumption also have two losses in the conference.
The conference title would be the first for the Auburndale girls program since the 1990-1991 season, when it tied for the Cloverbelt title with Mosinee, and only the third in the team’s history, going along with another shared Cloverbelt championship in the 1980-81 season.
The Apaches do not want to stop there though. No Auburndale girls basketball team has ever advanced to the WIAA state tournament.
“It means a lot (to the girls),” Auburndale coach Scott Meidl said of the possibility of winning a conference title. “More than I can express in words. It’s something you dream about as a young basketball player and something they can look back on forever. They have earned this with years of hard work. We had the same opportunity last season but didn’t finish it off. Hopefully we can win out and take some momentum into a deep playoff run.”
The Apaches, who were 16-2 heading into Thursday, have won 11 games in a row since a loss at Marathon on Jan. 5.
During that stretch Auburndale has allowed more than 40 points just twice, in the rematch with Marathon and in an overtime win over Stratford on Jan. 22.
Tenacity on defense is something Meidl has been trying to get the Apaches to consistently play with all season.
“I certainly feel like we have played our best basketball in these past two games, and at times we had great offensive sets and an awesome intensity on defense,” Meidl said. “I hope that we are starting our peak right about now and look forward to entering the playoffs playing our best basketball. If you can beat teams like Assumption and Marathon, you have to be playing good basketball.”
Senior post players Paiton Richardson (16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) and Taylor Gotz (14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds) have been the focal point of the Auburndale offensive attack.
The play of the two, who have been on the varsity together for three seasons, has been in sync throughout the year. Even when the opposing team is doing everything they can to stop them, Richardson and Gotz have been able to do damage.
“I feel like they are one of the best post duos that I have seen,” Meidl said. “This is their third year playing on varsity together, and every year they are improving. The more they play, the more they recognize what to do, especially when they don’t have the ball. Their movement inside is tough to guard against, especially when they work so well together.”
Guards Allison Linzmeier, Sylviann Momont, Ashley Peplinski, Rachael Bolder, Mackenzie Raab, and reserve post player Hannah Bolder have been key contributors as well for the Apaches, although it may not always show up in the stats.
Linzmeier, another three-year varsity player, is averaging nearly 5 points per game, but no other Apache totals more than 4 points a game.
“We need to give a lot of credit to the rest of the girls playing with (Richardson and Gotz) as well (for their success),” Meidl added. “With defenses dropping in on our posts, they have started looking more for their shot, which is something we will have to continue to do going forward. Plus, if our guards don’t take care of the ball and do their part, we won’t be doing a whole lot of scoring of any kind.”
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.