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.
The Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team opened the WIAA Division 2 playoffs off with a convincing 60-27 victory on Wednesday night at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday night, but was moved to Wednesday due to Waupaca closing school and road conditions
The Hodags rallied for 22 unanswered points early in the first half and would eventually cruise to a 37-16 lead at halftime and would never look back. Rhinelander forced several turnovers with the help of their 1-2-2 press and were also able to work on their diamond press in the second-half. The Comets committed 18 turnovers alone in the first half and finished the night with five more turnovers then they scored points.
Waupaca was able to stick around for the first few possessions of the night and were only down 8-6 before Rhinelander started their rally. The Hodags scored 22 straight points that started with a drive and finish from senior Alayna Franson.
Junior Erika Jorgensen followed with a steal and finish in transition. Senior Maddie Meyer connected on a jumper and Franson scored again. Van Zile scored half of the Hodags' points on their 22-point run, including a pair of triples.
It was a slow start to the second half for both teams. Emma Smidt of Waupaca connected on the Comets first three of the night, five minutes into the half, but RHS still held a 45-21 advantage.
Jorgensen would score again, this time on a steal and assist from Van Zile. Freshman Rebecca Lawrence also scored back-to-back layups in the second half. Junior Payton Van Zile hit a triple down the stretch. While Kenedy Van Zile added a three-point play.
Kenedy Van Zile led the Hodags on the night and had the game-high of 25 points including 18 in the first half, and was the only Rhinelander player to score in double digits. Senior Maddie Meyer score nine points and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Freshman Rebecca Lawrence added six points in the win as nine Hodags scored on the night. Senior Ally Seefeldt, Franson, and Jorgensen all finished with four points. While Payton Van Zile and senior Molly Wagler each chipped in three.
The Comets top scorer of the night was sophomore guard Smidt who finished the night with nine points, with six coming in the first half. Freshman Savannah Wehmeyer, a 6-0 forward secured 14 rebounds, but the Hodags still outrebounded Waupaca on the night.
The Hodags were still without junior Brooke Mork, who has missed the second half of the season to a back injury and lost another player in the second half. Jorgensen saved a ball from going out at the baseline and with just under eight minutes left in the contest and her right knee appeared to buckle and had to be lifted off the court. She returned a few minutes later to the bench, but her leg was iced and elevated. The extent of her injury is not yet known.
With the win, Rhinelander advances to the WIAA Division 2 semifinal on Friday night and will travel to Merrill. Tip-off is set for 7:00PM. The Bluejays and Hodags faced each other mid-January, with Merrill earning the seven-point (67-60) non-conference win. The regional final will then be held on Saturday night.
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