Stratford ends season over Auburndale unbeaten
By Hub City Times
WAUSAU – The Stratford Tigers boys basketball team will end its season with a perfect record. The Tigers improved their record to 24-0 with a 66-50 win over Auburndale, in a Division 4 sectional semifinal played March 12 at Wausau West High School.
Upon completion of that contest, the WIAA determined all remaining games of boys basketball sectionals and the state tournament would be canceled in response to concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In a written statement released just hours after Stratford’s win over the Apaches on March 12, the WIAA said it “regrets the lost opportunity for teams and players that have worked to achieve their goals and the communities that have supported them throughout the year.”
Executive Director Dave Anderson added, “We want and need to be responsible in helping the global and state efforts to stem the tide and spread of this virus.”
The decision came shortly after the WIAA was informed the Kohl Center in Madison would not be available for the State Boys Basketball Tournament scheduled for March 19-21.
The sectional semifinal win was the third for Stratford Head Coach Curt Schmidt. “Great effort by our guys,” Schmidt said after the game. “Great job at halftime of understanding what we were trying to do in the second half, and then really doing it well the second half. I’m very proud of the kids.”
The Tigers overcame an eight-point deficit in the first half to grab a 33-32 halftime lead. Stratford slowly built that lead to double digits in the second half. “I thought we were more patient in the second half,” Schmidt added. “I thought we were impatient in the first half. I thought we were shooting pretty quickly and we were settling for what they were giving us, instead of trying to take what we wanted. I thought we did a better job of moving the ball and getting some paint touches, whether it was through the dribble, the pass or the post feed.
“Defensively, we definitely shored up things in the second half. I thought we bothered them more, contested them a little bit more, and then we rebounded better. They didn’t have second and third attempts like they did in the first half to start the game. Those are little things that you have to be able to do. You have to defend the paint. You have to defend the three-point line. We’re asking the kids to do the impossible, to do everything, right? But, then you have to finish the defense with a good box-out, or a good rebound. And then offensively, you have to take care of the ball. I thought we took care of the ball pretty well overall.”
The Tigers had just eight turnovers in the game. Stratford was led in scoring by seniors Vaughn Breit and Ben Barten, who each had 21, including 15 in the second half for Barten, who was a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor, and who also went 3-for-3 from the free throw line, in his last game as a Tiger. Breit’s 21 points gave him 1,201 for his Stratford career. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the win. Stratford outrebounded Auburndale 31-18. Another senior, Chandler Schmidt, added 10 points.
Junior Hunter Wright led Auburndale with 19 points. Senior Cooper Weinfurter added 13, but had just one point in the second half. The Apaches ended their season 20-5.
Before the remainder of the postseason was cancelled, the Tigers were scheduled to face Iola-Scandinavia in a sectional final March 14 at Wausau East High School.
The Tigers now have three sectional semifinal wins under Curt Schmidt. The first came in his first season as head coach, when Stratford defeated Crivitz in a Division 3 semifinal in 2003. The second came three years ago, when Stratford knocked off Neillsville in a Division 4 sectional semifinal in 2017.
The Tigers are now 22-16 in postseason competition under Schmidt. As far as available records go back (1958), this will go down as Stratford’s first undefeated season in school history. The Tigers were 24-1 a season ago, their second-best campaign on record.