The Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team already locked in the Great Northern Confernece title, but would advance to 11-0 in the GNC after rallying past Antigo 74-28 on Friday night at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. The Hodags struggled for the first 10 minutes of the contest, before they switched their full-court press and their pressure defense forced several Robin turnovers and closed the first half on a 21-3 to run to turn the tables. Rhinelander had the momentum in the second half and scored 24-unanswered points and would cruise to 46-point victory.
Antigo would come out playing the same triangle-and-two defense that RHS executed against Lakeland in an attempt to shut down senior Kenedy Van Zile and junior Rebecca Lawrence. But that left several other players open outside for Rhinelander including senior Cynthia Beavers who knocked down five triples in the first half, several unguarded. Van Zile, junior Ella Schiek, and sophomore Annika Johnson all also hit threes for RHS in the first half. In all the Hodags made 12 triples, eight in the first 18-minutes.
Rhinelander's defense forced a number of Robin turnovers and also used a balance of their transition offense to build on their lead. RHS would take a 39-17 lead at the break after closing the final six minutes on a 21-3 run.
The Hodags came out strong in the second half and scored the first 22 points of the second half to push their lead to 61-17. Sophomore Megan Brown,senior Sophia McGinnis, and Van Zile connected on three-pointers as part of the run. Lawrence scored a pair of baskets inside, Johnson added a pair of free throws, and Van Zile had a drive and transition layup as well. The run also envoked running-clock the rest of the way after a 40-point lead.
Antigo did not score until 11:15 when junior guard Lonna Weix went 1-2 from the free throw line. And the Robins scored their first field-goal of the half at 10:45, a basket from Weix. The Robins did a few more baskets down the stretch against the Hodags' bench, but the damage was already done.
Van Zile went into the contest needing 31 points to break Mike Flory’s all-time scoring record for RHS (1,566 points). With just under two minutes left with the running clock, Van Zile hit a three for her 28th point and was only three points shy of the record. The Robins called a timeout and would double team Van Zile the remainder of the contest to prevent her from setting the record that night.
Leading the Hodags was Van Zile with 28-points, 16 of her points coming in the second half. Fellow senior Beavers finished with 19 points, 17 of her points coming in the first half. Lawrence and Brown each chipped in eight as well. Antigo was led by junior Greta Parsons, who recorded eight points.
RHS is now 15-5 overall and 11-0 in the GNC standings and would earn the No. 2 seed for the WIAA playoffs. Rhinelander will host the regional semifinal game on Friday, Februray 28th against the winner of Merrill (#7) and Wausau East (#10) matchup. From there if the Hodags win they would host the regional final contest on Saturday.
But before Rhinelander focuses on postseason action they will have two regular season games left on their schedule. RHS will take on the top Wisconsin Valley Conference team, Marshfield in a rescheduled contest on Thursday night at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. The RHS boys' and girls' will then host a doubleheader on Friday against Tomahawk.