The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team cruised to a 78-65 WIAA Division 2 quarterfinal victory over Shawano with a 30-point night from senior guard Junior Howard. The Hodags held off a late Hawk push and hit some free throws down the stretch at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium to advance to the regional semifinals.
Howard scored a career-high of 30 points in his final high school home game and was nearly flawless shooting. The only shot the senior guard missed was one free threw, but he went 9-9 from the field including four triples and was 8-9 from the free throw line to lead the Hodags to a 13-point win.
It was only suiting that Howard scored Rhinelander's first and last points of the contest. Howard and fellow senior sparked the Hodags' offense early as they built at 12-7 advantage. Howard opened all scoring with a triple and a few possessions later scored on a drive. And Schickert scored inside, added a three-pointer, and a baseline jumper.
The Hawks responded with an 8-3 run to tie the game up at 15-15. Shawano's Nicholas Sherman and Nicholas Grignon scored inside. And 6'7" sophomore Carter Weisnicht had back-to-back baskets in the paint.But from there Rhinelander's defense locked down to finish out the final five minutes on an 11-3 run.
Junior Peyton Erikson hit a three and on the next possession Schickert took a defensive charge against Weisnicht that ignited the offense. It was also Weisnicht's third personal foul with just under four minutes in the half, and the Hodags' offense took advantage without Weisnicht in the contest. Howard hit a jumper and sophomores Ross Skeen and Quinn Lamers knocked down triples to close the first half and give RHS a 26-18 lead at halftime.
The Hawks would start the second half on a 9-4 run to pull back within three at 27-30. But the Hodags pushed back with a 12-5 run of their own to extend their lead to 10 points at 42-32. Howard sparked the run with three triples.
Rhinelander would hold their largest lead of the night midway through the second half when they went up 62-44 after junior Drake Martin hit a three and scored inside on an offensive rebound and Schickert also scored on a drive to the rim.And Erickson had an offensive board and lay in, followed by a three and Howard added a pair free throws.
Shawano had a late push in the final three minutes of the contest and were able to claw their way back in after a few outside shots.Sherman hit three triples in less than a minute and a half span and the Hawks in bonus would make Rhinelander make some free throws to secure the win. RHS did just that and went 14-16 from the line in the final 2 1/2 minutes to seal the deal.
Weisnicht led the way for Shawano with 25 points, 19 of them coming in the second half. The Hawks also hit 10 of their 11 three-pointers in the final 18 minutes. Sherman recorded 17 points that included four triples and Grignon added 13 points.
Howard had the game-high of 30 points and scored 23 of them in the second half. Martin would finish with 13 points, all in the second half and went 6-7 from the free throw line. Lamers also scored in double digits with 10 points. And Schickert recorded nine points and Erikson added eight points.
Rhinelander, a six-seed will travel to three-seed Wausau East on Friday night. The Lumberjacks are 12-8 this season and 5-7 in the Wisconsin Valley Conference.East is led by 6'5" junior Gabe Krueger who averages 17.8 points per contest and leads the WVC with 8.1 rebounds per game. Tip-off is set for 7:00PM and the winner will advance to the regional finals on Saturday.