The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team nearly upset three-time defending WIAA Division 1 State Champions, Stevens Point on Friday. But the Hodags couldn't fend off two of the Panthers top players, and fell 79-69 in overtime on the road at Stevens Point Area Senior High.
The Hodags held a 58-50 with just under three minutes left in regulation. RHS extended their lead after a pair of bonus free throws from senior Owen White along, a corner three-pointer from point guard Junior Howard, and a drive and finish from Brock Lieder. But from there, senior Drew Blair rallied with his own 12-4 run against Rhinelander, and was able to tie the game and add an extra five minutes of overtime.
Blair led Stevens Point with 37 points on the night. While senior standout and 4-star Marquette recruit and ESPN's 2018 top-100 player (41st) Joey Hauser was right behind Blair and recorded 35 points in the win. Blair scored the Panthers' final 18 points of regulation and the pair combined to score 72, which was over 91% of SPASH's points.
Rhinelander would lead most of the regulation and held an early 21-12 advantage after triples from senior Brad Comer, White, Howard, and Lieder which was also part of 11-unanswered points for RHS.
Midway through the first half- Bryce Shickert had back-to-back buckets including one in transition and another off senior Brad Quade's dish inside. And with just over five minutes left in the first half Blair hit a three to pull the Panthers with three at 25-22. And with 55 seconds left in the half, Hauser connected on a three to pull SPASH again with three. The Hodags would hold a 30-27 lead at halftime.
The Panthers started the second half strong and Hauser scored six straight points inside to give SPASH a 33-30 advantage. But Comer responded and completed a three-point play after being fouled on a made shot to tie the game up again.
Quade would score seven quick points in the middle of the second-half including a steal and transition finish to put RHS up 49-46 and a three-point play to follow. Howard also scored back-to-back points, including a nice find from Drake Martin on a cut to the rim. White was fouled with 3:48 left and hit both bonus free throws.
Comer found Howard in the corner for another three-pointer to follow to put RHS up 56-48. Leider would score inside, but Blair hit a triple to get Point with six points at 58-52. Howard found White up the court in transition off a full-court press, but once again Blair hit another three with 1:45 left in regulation to make it a one-possession game.
Chances dwindled for RHS down the stretch. Lieder was fouled back-to-back times from there, and missed both bonus one-and-one chances.
After Blair finished at the rim with 53.4 seconds left, there was a clock issue after Rhinelander already brought the ball up the court and swung it around the perimeter. They then had to inbound the ball, and White was quickly fouled. He was able to make both bonus free throws to give the Hodags' a three-point lead.
Blair hit another triple with 37.7 seconds left to tie the game up. Rhinelander had a chance to take the lost shot, but was denied that chance. White received the high inbound pass and Drew Cullen got wrapped up with White and was called for a travel to give SPASH the ball back.
Blair missed a long two-point shot and Cullen missed the rebound and put back as regulation expired. In the five-minute overtime, SPASH carried the late rally and momentum and would outscore RHS 17-7 to seal the deal. Hauser scored a three in the first minute of overtime and would never trail from there.
Rhinelander had chances down the stretch, but turnovers at the end of the game and missed free throws opened the door for the Panthers, who proved why the won three straight Division 1 titles.
Four Hodags' finished with double digit points on the night. White led the way with a double-double, recording 21 points and 11 rebounds. Howard finished with 12 points, Quade had 11 points, and Lieder added 10 points. As a team Rhinelander finished shooting exactly 50% from the field on 27 of 54. And also shot 61.3% on two-point field goals at 19 of 31.
Despite dropping their first game of the season, Rhinelander remains optimistic and were able to push the three-time D1 champs into overtime, proving they can play with anyone. The Hodags will be back in action for another Wisconsin Valley Conference opponent, Wisconsin Rapids. RHS will host the Raiders at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium, with tip-off set for 7:30PM.