Crunch time: Local girls basketball teams prepare for the postseason
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The composure of an experienced Marshfield girls basketball team has led to a number of close victories this season and should do nothing but bolster the Tigers’ chances as the WIAA playoffs begin next week.
Marshfield — 19-2 overall and 11-0 in the Wisconsin Valley Conference prior to Thursday’s regular-season finale against Wausau East — earned a No. 1 seed in the Division 1 Sectional 1 bracket and will take on Wisconsin Rapids (3-18) in a regional semifinal on Friday, Feb. 26.
Five key players, including three starters from last year’s team that advanced to the sectional semifinals, returned for Marshfield, giving it a strong core.
Senior McKayla Scheuer and junior Ema Fehrenbach have led the Tigers in scoring, and sophomore center Hannah Meverden has developed into another inside threat on both ends of the court. Junior Maddie Nikolai and sophomore Meg Bryan, reserves last year, have solidified the starting lineup.
“We don’t seem to get rattled or lose composure, even when things aren’t going well, and McKayla Scheuer has been a tremendous leader on the floor down the stretch in those games and willing to take big shots,” Marshfield coach Heidi Michaelis said. “This entire team, at some point or another, has had to make big free throws down the stretch to get some of our close wins. We will have to continue to do all those things in the tournament.
“I think our best ball game is still out there, where everything just clicks and goes right on the offensive end and we have the majority of kids shoot well. Playing defense and getting stops is always the key to a championship run.”
Auburndale (19-2) earned a bye into the Division 4 regional semifinals as the No. 2 seed in the Sectional 2 bracket and will host either Menominee Indian or Oconto on Feb. 26.
The Apaches tied for the Marawood Conference South Division title with Wisconsin Rapids Assumption and Marathon, which is the No. 1 seed in the same bracket. The two teams split a pair of conference games this season and squared off in a regional final a year ago with Marathon coming out on top.
Stratford is the No. 4 seed, and Spencer is No. 9 in the same Division 4 bracket.
Stratford (15-6) also earned a bye and will host either Crandon or Crivitz in a regional semifinal Feb. 26. With a victory the Tigers would likely face No. 1 Marathon, which defeated them twice during the Marawood South season.
Spencer (12-9) will be at No. 8 Wabeno/Laona (16-5) in a regional quarterfinal on Tuesday.
The Rockets made a vast improvement this season from a year ago, when they won just six games.
“The biggest improvement I’ve seen from last year to this year is mostly our basketball knowledge on the court,” Spencer coach Brian Abel said. “The girls are finding open areas to cut to when they’re open, where in past years we were standing around too much. Defensively, the girls are anticipating where the ball will go and jumping the pass to get turnovers.”
Columbus Catholic (9-12) is the No. 6 seed in the Division 5 Sectional 2 bracket and earned a home game. The Dons will host Pittsville (3-18)on Tuesday in a regional quarterfinal.
“Boxing out, rebounding, and just playing our game (are important),” Columbus Catholic coach Rhonda Keding said. “In the last four or five games, we’ve been doing great. I’m excited for the postseason, and hopefully the girls can keep going hard like they have been.”
WIAA Girls Basketball Playoffs
Regional quarterfinals, Tuesday, Feb. 23
Division 4: Spencer (12-9) at Wabeno/Laona (16-5), 7 p.m.
Division 5: Pittsville (3-18) at Columbus Catholic (9-12), 7 p.m.
Regional semifinals, Friday, Feb. 26
Division 1: Wisconsin Rapids (3-18) at Marshfield (19-2), 7 p.m.
Division 4: Menominee Indian (17-4)-Oconto (8-13) winner at Auburndale (19-2), 7 p.m.; Crandon (16-5)-Crivitz (8-13) winner at Stratford (15-6), 7 p.m.
*Regional finals are Saturday, Feb. 27, with sectionals on March 3 and March 5. The 41st annual WIAA State Girls Basketball Tournament will be held at Resch Center in Green Bay on March 10-12.