The Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team proved they are on the right track after a successful 2017-2018 season, where they held their highest number of wins in over a decade. It also marked the first-time head Coach Ryan Clark had two unanimous first-team all-Great Northern Conference players in a single season. The Hodags finished 14-10 overall and finished second in the GNC at 10-2. Here is a look back at their season and what to look forward to for next season.
It marked the first season under Clark that the lady Hodags were able to adapt to a new style of play. In the past several seasons, Rhinelander girls' basketball focused on their half-court defense but this year with a young and quick guard-filled team, they were able to focus on a new tempo.
The Hodags primarily used a 1-2-2 and diamond full-court press a majority of the season. Rhinelander would use that quicker pace tempo to create turnovers and would spark a good portion of their offensive with transition buckets. GNC Team Averages
The Hodags were at the top portion of the GNC in all-team averages including first in team free throw percentages at 63.8%. Rhinelander was also runner-up in steals, assists, scoring offense, and scoring defense which was a clear reflection of their new fast-pace tempo.
Lakeland was first in scoring at 70 points per conference game, first in assists at 19.8 per game, and first in steals at 18.2 per contest. RHS averaged 16.9 steals and 12.3 assists while scoring 63.6 points per game and holding opponents to 49.1 points per game. Rhinelander finished third in rebounding in the GNC and averaged 33.6 boards per contest.
GNC Individual Leaders
The Hodags were led by sophomore point guard Kenedy Van Zile, who was one of two RHS players to earn unanimous first-team all-GNC. Van Zile made the top-GNC individual leaders in scoring, rebounds, steals, and free throw percentage. She was second in scoring, making 82 field goals including 17 three-pointers and scored 246 points in the GNC and averaged 20.5 per game. Junior Melissa Bruckner and GNC player of the year was first in scoring and averaged 24.8 per game. Van Zile was also second behind Bruckner in steals and averaged 4 per game.
Even being a 5'5" guard, Van Zile was still fourth in the conference in rebounding and grabbed 85 throughout GNC action to average 7.1 per game. She was also fourth in free throw percentage at 69.1% (65-94).
Senior guard Ally Seefeldt and fellow unanimous first-team all-conference player also made an impact this season and made the GNC individual leader list in several categories. She was top-five in the conference in scoring, free throw percentage, and steals. Seefeldt averaged 19 points per game and scored 17 triples in GNC play. She also averaged 3.3 steals per game and shot 68.4% from the free-throw line.
Senior guard Alayna Franson and cross-country standout, proved to be one of the Hodags’ top defenders throughout the season and also made the GNC list in steals and finished with 40 in the conference, averaging 3.3 per contest. She also was second in assists for the Hodags’ with 24 in GNC action.
Junior Brook Mork also would have made the GNC list in scoring, but the conference is based on the minimum of 60% of team games played. Mork averaged 10.9 pointers per game in her first seven GNC contests. But after suffering a back injury, Mork missed the last five conference games. Junior post Erika Jorgensen also suffered a knee injury at the end of the season.
This season, the Hodags were led by a large senior class of seven players. Four of the seven played significant minutes in the varsity lineup. The seniors include Franson, Seefeldt, Maddie Meyer, Molly Wagler, Lexie Rick, Jada Appling, and Megan Fernandes.
Seefeldt led the way for the Hodag seniors which included making the top-GNC list in scoring, steals, and free throw percentage and would be significant to Rhinelander's offense and defense. Franson also made the conference list in steals with 3.3 per game but also added 37 rebounds and 24 assists.
Meyer was second on the team in rebounds, finishing with 53 and added 21 assists, 17 steals, and averaged 5 points per game. Wagler averaged 3.3 points per contest and charted 37 boards for the Hodags.
A number of underclassmen emerged for Rhinelander this season, as they had a balance of senior leadership and youth. Besides starting sophomore point guard, Van Zile; at the end of the season the Hodags’ saw significant minutes for a pair of freshman after they lost Mork and Jorgensen to injury.
Rhinelander's Rebecca Lawrence and Marissa Martin split minutes on junior varsity and varsity this season but proved by the end of the season they are ready to step into varsity roles. Lawrence averaged 3.9 points per game and finished with 26 rebounds and 10 steals. While Martin averaged 1.4 points per game and charted 22 board and five steals. Looking Ahead
The Hodags will lose seven seniors to graduations, which four were starters and or logged significant minutes. Rhinelander will return Van Zile, Lawrence, and Martin as well look to get Mork and Jorgensen healthy for their senior season. Shooting guard Payton Van Zile will also return for her senior year and will likely see some of their top JV players; Hannah Woracheck, Kendra Durkee, and Sophia McGinnis fill varsity roles. The RHS girls' basketball team will look to continue to build on a successful winning 2017-2018 season.
The Rhinelander High School girls' basketball ended their 2017-2018 after falling to fourth-seeded Merrill on the road on Friday night. The Bluejays soared past the Hodags to earn the 66-56 victory in the WIAA Division 2 regional seminfinal contest to knock off RHS.
Rhinelander battled throughout the night, but every run and comeback was answered by the Bluejays who had a stellar night shooting and their top three scoring threats combined to score 53 points on the night.
The Bluejays raced out to a 13-6 advantage early in the game after Patience Pyan connected on her first of three triples on the night. Merrill would build their lead to 10 points at 19-9 before Rhinelander answered back on a 9-2 run midway through the first half.
Sophomore Kenedy Van Zile and senior Ally Seefeldt started the run and knocked down back-to-bacl triples. Seefeldt would add a pair of free throws to pull within two points at 17-19 and fellow senior Molly Wagler added one free throw as part of the run. Maddix Bonnell scored on a drive in the middle of Rhinelander's run.
Merrill responded with their own 11-4 run to push back ahead 30-21. The Bluejays offense got back in rhythm after another outside shot from Pyan after they had a series of turnovers and fouls.
But once again, the Hodags’ didn’t back down and continued to grind. Van Zile finished a traditional three-point play with 1:21 left in the half and the next possession Seefeldt scored on a curl cut to bring RHS with six points. Van Zile hit a pair of free throws with 26.5 seconds left in the half, but Pyan would score on a runner with two seconds left to give Merrill a 36-28 lead at halftime.
The Bluejays came out strong in the second half and would open with a 20-9 run to push their lead to 56-37. Merrill also scored the first three baskets of the second half including a jumper from Bonnell, Pyan's third triple, and 5'11" junior Elizabeth Iribarren scored inside.
Senior Maddie Meyer finally broke up the streak and scored on a jumper, and marked he first basket of the night. Seefeldt followed and connected on a three-pointer and Van Zile scored inside. But the biggest issue down the stretch proved to be defense, as RHS was unable to stop Merrill’s triple treat that had the ability to score inside and outside.
Iribarren only scored six points in the first half, but with foul trouble and lack of height without 5'9" forward Erika Jorgensen who suffered a knee injury in the previous contest, RHS did not have an answer for her 14-points in the second half.
In the final five minutes, with their season on the line, Rhinelander made a late push. Wagler scored on an offensive rebound and putback and Van Zile hit a triple. Senior guard Alayna Franson scored in transition to bring RHS back within 12 points at 44-56.
Wagler connected on a pair of free throws and Meyer scored attacked and scored on two drives and Seefeldt also scored on a drive. Van Zile was able to cut the deficit to single digits after hitting a free throw at 53-62. But Rhinelander did not have enough to keep up with Merrill down the stretch.
Merrill's Iribarren, Pyan, and Bonnell combined to scored 53 points which was 80% of the Bluejays scoring on the night. Iribarren hit her career-high of 20 points to lead Merrill while Pyan finished with 17 points. Bonnell recorded 16 points and would reach the milestone of scoring 1,000 career points in her efforts.
Van Zile led Rhinelander with 25 points which included 7-of-8 from the free throw line and a pair of triples. Seefeldt added 14 points and went 4-of-4 from the line and also had two three-pointers. Wagler went 4-of-6 from the line and finished with eight points. And Meyer scored six points, all in the second half.
It marked the final high school basketball game for seniors; Franson, Meyer, Seefeldt, Wagler, and Lexie Rick. Rhinelander finished the season with a 14-10 record and earned second-place in the Great Northern Conference.
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