The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball was able to break a three-year losing streak in playoffs after defeating Merrill the previous night, but the Hodags fell short on the road against Wausau East as they saw their 2016-2017 season come to an end.
Rhinelander fell 59-53 after the Lumberjacks went on an 11-0 run to start the second half with a combination of RHS turnovers, foul trouble, and outside shots not falling late in the game. Senior guard Reeve Craig picked up to hand-check fouls within the first two minutes of the game, which limited his time on the court.
The Hodags started strong with an 8-2 run, which included two triples from Brad Comer and an inside bucket from Owen White. East would respond back with 11 unanswered points and would then maintain the lead for the rest of the game.
RHS finally broke the streak at 6:52 left in the first half, when White was fouled and finished the three-point play. The Lumberjacks would extend their lead to 17-11 after senior Thomas Dunbar scored inside and sophomore Chris Nash hit a baseline jumper.
Brad Quade then found Matt Reinthaler for a three-pointer to give the Hodags some momentum. Wausau East's Coach Paul Dimka then received a technical foul with 1:58 left in the half. White connected on both free throws and would hit a contested three at the buzzer to pull the Hodags within two at 22-24.
The Lumberjacks started the second half with back-to-back triples. The first coming off an offensive rebound, and senior Matt Tuman connected. And senior Michael LaPree followed the next possession with another shot beyond the arc. Nash followed up with a drive inside for East's largest lead of the night at 35-22.
Midway through the second half, the Hodags would chip away at the Lumberjacks lead with the help of several offensive rebounds and putbacks. Sophomore Junior Howard, senior Easton Senoraske, and White all finished inside off rebounds.
Comer and Reinthaler continued to find open looks outside and each connected to put the Hodags down by seven at 36-43. But Rhinelander didn’t have an answer for 6'6" senior Sawyer Schlindwein, who would extend the lead again with two straight buckets inside.
The Hodags were able to take advantage of some bonus free throws late in the second half, with both Quade and White going 2-for-2 from the line. Comer would then connect on his fourth triple of the night to pull Rhinelander with three at 47-50 with just over three minutes left in the game.
But that would be the closest RHS would get and both Craig and White fouled out of the contest. Wausau East would hold on to earn the 59-53 regional final win and advance to the first round of sectionals on Thursday.
East finished the night with three players in double digits. Schlindwein led the Lumberjacks with 17 points and Dunbar finished the night with 14. Tuman added 10 points in the win, and LaPree chipped in nine.
The Hodags committed 14 turnovers on the night, including eight in the first half and had 22 three-point attempts on the night, finishing 31% beyond the arc.
White had the game-high of 23 points and added eight rebounds on the night. Comer finished with 12-points, all on three-pointers. Reinthaler also added six rebounds for the Hodags. It was the last high school basketball game for the four Hodag seniors; Reinthaler, Senoraske, Craig, and Matt Rudolph.
Wausau East will take on Medford in the WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinals on Thursday March, 9th at Merrill.
The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team broke their playoff streak, and earned the first home playoff win in three years. The Hodags would use a second half run to push past Merrill 58-55 in the WIAA Division 2 regional semifinals on Friday at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
The Bluejays attempted to run a box-and-one defense to try and shutdown Owen White as well as a 2-3 zone. But in the opening two possessions, the Hodags provided they wouldn’t back down. Senior Matt Reinthaler connected on a triple, followed by White inside for RHS to take an early 5-1 advantage.
Merrill would respond back with six unanswered points after Jared Ollhoff and Zach Mootz hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Bluejays ahead 7-5. White and Reinthaler each scored inside followed by euro-step inside from junior Brad Quade.
Once again Merrill would rally for six straight points, starting with 6'9" center Jon Gruetzmacher inside. The Hodags' had a break in their defense when sophomore Quinn Steckbauer drove for an uncontested layup. And Mootz would have an offensive rebound and putback to give the Bluejays a 15-12 advantage.
And with about six minutes left in the first half, Rhinelander would rally for a 13-3 run which included Reinthaler inside for two buckets followed by a three from senior Easton Senoraske. Steckbauer would break up the Hodag’s run with a three-pointer but Reinthaler answer back with a triple of his own.
RHS would extend their lead to 25-18 after sophomore Junior Howard connected from beyond the arc on an extra pass on the perimeter from Reinthaler. But Merrill would close the half on a 7-2 run to get within two with the Hodags ahead 27-25 at the half.
The Bluejays took an early 33-32 lead to start the second half. But with the help of outside shots from Craig and Howard, followed by a floater from Senoraske, the Hodags would go ahead 38-33.
RHS would extend their lead to 57-50, before Merrill would slowly inch back with after sending the Hodags to the free throw line for bonus free throws down the stretch. Rhinelander was unable to put the game out of reach after Mootz hit a well-contested three with about 11 seconds left in the game.
Craig was fouled and connected on 1-of-2 double bonus free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining. Craig then earned a steal on Merrill's inbounds as RHS held on to earn a 58-55 win over Merrill.
The Bluejays were led by game-high scorer Mootz, who finished the night with 23 points. Merrill also had two other players finish in double-digits; Steckbauer (11 points) and Gruetzmacher (10 points).
Rhinelander finished the night with seven three-pointers, shooting approximately 32% from beyond the arc. And RHS was efficient inside the three-point line, where they shot over 60%.
The Hodags finished with three players in double-digits, led by Reinthaler with 14 points and seven rebounds in the win. Craig and White each charted 11 points on the night. And Howard chipped in eight, and Senoraske added seven. Craig also finished with six assists and three steals. And Brad Comer added four assists and three steals.
Rhinelander will be on the road on Saturday night to take on Wausau East of the Wisconsin Valley Conference in the WIAA Division 2 regional final. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00PM.
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