The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team was shocked on Friday night, as they found their 2017-2018 season come to an end after being knocked out by No. 9 seed Medford in the WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal. The Hodags finished with an impressive 20-2 record, but did expect to be out of playoffs this early. The Raiders, who fell to RHS twice this season in Great Northern Conference action, turned the tables and grinded out a 63-61 overtime victory at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
With Rhinelander down by two points in the final seconds of overtime, they got the ball in the hands of standout senior Owen White. Junior Howard swung the ball to White at the right wing where he drove and got an eight-foot floater off, but the shot did not drop as time expired.
The Raiders raced out to an 8-3 advantage after senior Ben Lindgren knocked down a triple in the opening minutes. But Rhinelander rallied back like they did most of the night. Howard connected on a triple and junior Bryce Shickert scored inside to tie the game back up.
But midway through the first half, Medford senior Cam Wenzl took over and scored 11 points himself on the Raider's 21-9 run. Along with Wenzl's trio of triples, senior Dan Strick and freshman Peyton Kuhn hit outside shots during the run. Medford would push their lead to 12 points (29-17) after Wenzl's third three-pointer.
That's when Rhinelander senior Brad Comer sparked the Hodags' offense and defense who finished the first half with 11 unanswered points. Howard started the run with a triple and Comer followed with another with 1:30 left in the first. The next possession Comer had a steal and assist up the court to Howard in transition. After a defensive stop, Comer hit another three with 33 seconds left to pull Rhinelander within one at 28-29 at halftime.
The first seven minutes was slow for both teams who didn't seem to find an offensive rhythm after a combined 12 free throws shot in the first eight minutes of action. The Hodags also shot bonus free throws for the last 7:48 of regulation.
Junior Brock Lieder connected on a triple to tie the game up 33-33, but the Raider's answered back with a 13-3 run to go up double-digits. During the run Medford scored 10 unanswered points that included going 7-of-7 from the line and a triple from Lindgren. White broke up the run a tradition three-point play with just over 10 minutes left in the second half.
Comer and fellow senior Reese Flores hit triples to get Rhinelander's offense back on track. Comer had a pair of steals, the first scoring in transition and the second assisting Lieder up-court. White connected from outside and Wenzl was called for a momentum-changing charge. The Hodags' full-court press forced the Raider's into a 10-second call with four minutes left.
White hit another triple to tie the game up 52-52, but Kuhn and Wenzl of Medford scored back-to-back inside points to take a four-point lead. With 57 seconds left, White had a block and would get a steal 14 seconds later and pushed the ball up to Comer who was fouled and scored a traditional three-point play in transition. The Raiders were called for travel with just over 30 seconds left.
White found Lieder inside who was fouled going up. Lieder went 1-of-2 from the line to tie the game up 56-56 with 15.6 seconds left. Medford was unable to get a shot off in the remaining time, after the Hodags' defense forced a jump ball under the basket with 1.2 seconds left to force overtime.
Strick scored the first bucket in overtime on an offensive board and put back with 2:20 left on the clock. White answered with a triple to give Rhinelander their first lead of the night at 59-58. White again gave the Hodags the lead at 61-60 after knocking down a pair of free-throws with exactly a minute left in overtime.
But Lindgren would score on a drive with just over a minute left and again with 28 seconds left to give Medford the lead for good. After a Hodag miss, they quickly fouled Kuhn with 12.5 seconds left. Kuhn went 1-of-2 with 12.5 seconds left to go up 63-61. Rhinelander after breaking he press called a timeout with 7.3 seconds left which set up White's final shot just outside the lane that rolled out to conclude the game.
Wenzl would finish with the game-high of 21 points which included three-first-half triples and he went 5-of-6 from the line in the second half. Strick charted 13 points, eight in the second half. Lindgren finished with 12 points which included four critical overtime points. Way added nine points and Kuhn chipped in eight in the win.
Rhinelander was led by White, who finished the night with 19 points including three-triples, and 12 points in the second half and overtime. Comer also added a trio of threes on the night and finished with 15 points. Lieder knocked down three-triples as well and added 12 points. Howard and Shickert were both shutout in the second-half; Howard finished with eight and Shickert chipped in eight.
On the night, Rhinelander struggled shooting inside the arc, where they went 8-of-23 (34.8%). While the Hodags went 12-of-26 (46%) from three-point range. RHS was also out-rebounded by 12 on the night. The Raiders were knocked out by No. 5- seed Marshfield 69-42 on Saturday night.
Despite being eliminated the third time in four years by GNC opponents in the regional semifinals, the Hodags have a long list of team and individual accomplishments throughout the season including a 20-2 record and going undefeated in the conference for the GNC title. It marked the final high school basketball game for seniors; Comer, Flores, White, Jared Haug, Markus Johnson, Sean Mathews, and Brad Quade.