Although the Rhinelander High School girls' basketball did not play their best basketball on Friday night, they were able to do enough to advance to the WIAA Division 2 Regional final game tonight. The Hodags would defeat the Lumberjacks 66-55 at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium in the regional semifinals.
It took the first 18 minutes of action for both teams to settle in after they combined for 29 first-half turnovers. Although Rhinelander's high intensity full-court press created several turnovers, many of them the Hodags couldn't convert or they would turn the ball back over to East. It was close battle in the opening minutes until RHS went for five under answered points to take 9-4 lead and force Wausau to burn a timeout to slow up the momentum. Senior Kenedy Van Zile and sophomore Megan Brown sparked the run. Brown had a free throw and and steal and assist up the court to Van Zile. And Van Zile added a coast to coast finish.
After the timeout the Lumberjacks clawed their way back and would stay within striking distance midway thorugh the first half. Senior Elizabeth Boulanger had a three-point play and juniors Abby Thompson and Kit Kronberger also scored for East. But the Hodags would gradually outscore the Lumberjacks 19-11 over the final seven minutes of the half. Van Zile scored on four straight possessions including an offensive board and put back and a few transition baskets. She also assisted fellow senior Cythnia Beavers on a breakaway. Van Zile put RHS up 34-24 after a triple and a pair of free throws. And RHS would take a 40-29 lead at the break.
Rhinelander came out strong in the second half as Beavers and senior Sophia McGinnis both knocked down triples. In the second half, both teams cut down on their turnovers but Rhinelander would miss seven bunnies in the lane which allowed East to go for eight unanswered points in the middle of the half and pull back within eight at 58-50. Sophomore Maddy Krueger hit two deep three-pointers in the middle of the second half for East.
But the Hodags always had an answer and got a triple from the corner from Van Zile as well as a drive and a few free throws down the stretch from Beavers and junior Rebecca Lawrence to secure the 11-point victory.
Van Zile had the game-high of 31 points, including 22 points in the first half. While Beavers finished the night with 20 points. Lawrence and McGinnis eached chipped in seven points as well. RHS struggled from the line and only shot %56.25 from the line (9-16).
East was led by Thompson with 13 points and Kronberger finished 11 points. Freshman Savannah Spees added nine points and Krueger chipped in eight points for the Lumberjacks. Wausau East shot %66.6 from the line (6-9) on the night.
Rhinelander is now 18-5 on the season and will advance to the WIAA Regional Final contest tonight. The Hodags (No. 2 seed) will host New London (No. 3 seed) at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00PM, where the winner will advance to the sectional semifinals in Antigo against the winner of Hortonville (No. 1 seed) and Mosinee (No. 5 seed) who knocked off Lakeland.