The madness awaits
Local boys basketball teams enter March like lions, not lambs
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball team put together an undefeated conference season to capture the Cloverbelt Conference East Division championship and will look to take that momentum into the WIAA boys basketball playoffs, which kick off Tuesdaywith regional quarterfinals across the state.
The Dons, 19-2 heading into Saturday’s Cloverbelt Conference crossover game against Eau Claire Regis, are the No. 2 seed in the top half of the Division 5 Sectional 2 field and will host Athens (1-18) on Tuesday.
With the high seed, Columbus would host all three regional games next week if it keeps winning.
Standing in the way to sectionals, along with Athens and the winner of the Northland Lutheran-Wild Rose game, is No. 3 seed Almond-Bancroft, which, like Columbus, is ranked in the top 10 in the state in Division 5.
“We played a tough schedule and have a very difficult bracket with a number of teams that could come out of it,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “It will be very important for us to take each day as an opportunity to get better.”
In Division 4 Spencer (14-7), Stratford (13-9), and Auburndale (8-12) will all host regional quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Stratford won three games in a row heading into Thursday’s Marawood crossover against Prentice and will host Crandon (8-13).
The Tigers have turned up their offense as of late, scoring nearly 69 points per game during their three-game win streak. This comes after hitting the 50-point mark only once in their previous five games.
Auburndale, which advanced to the state tournament a year ago, started the season slowly with an entirely new lineup but had won four of its last five going into the Marawood crossover game at Chequameogon on Thursday.
Six different Apaches hit for double-figures in their last three games, including recent wins over Neillsville and Abbotsford, giving them a diverse offense that keeps opponents guessing.
Auburndale will take on Neillsville again in a regional quarterfinal on Tuesday. The Apaches beat Neillsville (12-9) 59-48 last Saturday.
Spencer, which hosts Crandon (8-13) in the first round of the playoffs, is looking to regain its swagger.
The Rockets put up 70-plus points in three-straight wins before a loss at Columbus on Monday.
Senior Bobby Pilz has scored more than 21 points in five of the Rockets’ last seven games as he moved into second place on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Coach Randy Reckner likes the Rockets’ chances heading into the postseason.
“I think our bracket for our half of the sectional is favorable,” Reckner said. “We got a five-seed, and we could potentially play Edgar in the third game. We played them earlier in the year, so we have some familiarity with them, and we beat them. I think if we can shore some things up, we can make a bit of a run.”
Marshfield (14-7) wraps up its regular season Thursday against Wausau West and will be off until Friday, March 4, when it takes on Oshkosh West (8-12) in a Division 1 regional semifinal.
The Tigers had won six games in a row heading into the game at West, and coach Scott Scheuer credits a lot of their recent success to having senior forward Adam Fravert at full health after he returned from an injury suffered on the second day of football practice back in August.
Junior point guard Alec Hinson, along with Fravert, were the only two Tigers returning this season that had seen significant playing time a year ago when Marshfield charged into sectionals despite a losing record.
Hinson has made his mark on offense recently, making 16 of 24 shots from 3-point range and scoring 20 points per game over the past four.
“Alec is the hardest worker on our team,” Scheuer said. “I coached him hard, and he is just now starting to apply all of his hard work. He’s a great kid, works hard, listens. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he just listens to me and continues to work and get better. He’s worked on his shot and his aggressiveness and really bought in.”
WIAA Boys Basketball Playoffs
Regional quarterfinals, Tuesday, March 1
Division 4: Neillsville (12-9) at Auburndale (8-12), 7 p.m.; Crandon (8-13) at Spencer (14-7), 7 p.m.; Coleman (8-12) at Stratford (12-9), 7 p.m.
Division 5: Athens (1-18) at Marshfield Columbus Catholic (19-2), 7 p.m.
Regional semifinals, Friday, March 4
Division 1: Oshkosh West (8-12) at Marshfield (14-7), 7 p.m.
*Regional finals are Saturday, March 5, with sectionals on March 10 and March 12. The 101st annual WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament will be held March 17-19 at the Kohl Center in Madison.