The Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team had a stellar night shooting three-pointers, but still came up short and was knocked out of the playoffs on Friday at Wausau East. The Lumberjacks won 71-65 in the Division 2 WIAA Regional Semifinals match to advance to the regional finals.
Senior Junior Howard would surpass his career-high scoring record he set on Tuesday night and finished the night with 32 points that included eight of the teams' season-best of 17 triples of the night.
It was rocky start for the Hodags' offense early in the contest before they started connected from outside. Junior Drake Martin was the first to score on the night inside before the Lumberjacks responded with seven unanswered points. It also was one of few inside baskets for Rhinelander on the night.
Rhinelander answered on a 21-8 run that included seven of their eight first-half triples to take a 23-15 lead. Howard connected on two of those threes on the run while junior Peyton Erikson, sophomore Quinn Lamers, sophomore Ross Skeen, and senior Neil Mathews all also connected from outside.
East's 6'5" junior forward Gabe Krueger followed with back-to-back three-point plays to cut Rhinelander's lead to one. From there it went back and forth. RHS went on a 9-4 run in the final five minutes that included a pair of three's from Skeen and a steal and transition basket from Howard.
That put RHS up 32-28 but with only 6.2 seconds left in the half, East drew a foul while being in bonus and Trey Buchberger hit both free-throws. The Hodags held a 32-30 lead at the break and would hold Krueger to just five points in the first 18-minutes.
The Lumberjacks started the second half on a 7-1 run where senior Forrest Kronberger scored inside twice and fellow senior Ryan LaCerte hit a triple from the baseline. But Rhinelander continued to hit their outside shots to keep them within striking distance. Howard had two early three's and Skeen added another midway through the half to give RHS a 47-45 lead.
From there, the Lumberjacks pulled ahead for good with a 12-2 run. Krueger scored eight of those 12 points on three baskets inside the paint and a pair of free throws.
After another three from Howard with just over four minutes left, RHS got within five, but East took advantage of their bonus free throws down the stretch. The Lumberjacks final 12 points of the night came from the line as they held off Howard and the Hodags to earn the 71-65 win.
The Hodags' defense gave up 41 points in the second half to Wausau East and Krueger led the way with a double-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds on the night. The Lumberjacks had three other players score in double-digits; Jake Kane had 12 points, Kronberger added 11 points, and Buschberger charted 10 points.
Howard finished with a career and game-high of 32 points, scoring 24 points alone in the second half. Skeen added 12-points that included three triples. Rhinelander had four seniors on their roster, including two starters they will lose for next season; Howard and Schickert. They will also lose Mathews who hit two triples in their final contest and forward Patrick Stone. RHS finished the year 10-13 overall.