SPORTSDESK – Boys high school basketball playoffs in central Wisconsin started on Tuesday night and it looks like we’re in for a wild ride again this year. Local teams Spencer, Stratford, Columbus Catholic and Marshfield Senior High all hosted opening quarterfinal regional playoff games. All teams began the playoffs with a win, it was just a matter of how the wins came to be.
We’ll start at Columbus Catholic who begin this playoff campaign at home as the #1 seed in Division 5. The Dons got out to a quick start against the visiting Tigers from Tigerton and lead at the half, 54-18.
Seniors Noah Hanson and Nick Malovhr both reached double figures in scoring for the Dons. Columbus Catholic next takes the court Friday at 7pm as they host #9 seed Pittsville. The Panthers took down the #8 seed Loyal Greyhounds on Tuesday night, 54-52.
The Stratford Tigers hosted the Viroqua Blackhawks who came into the game as the #11 seed with only three wins on the year. Stratford, who competes during the playoffs in Division 3 rather than their regular season Division 4 conference format, is the #6 seed with 19 wins. The Tigers finished the regular season by taking down the Division 4 #1 seed Auburndale Apaches by 20 points, 62-42. They used that momentum to bounce the Blackhawks back to Viroqua. The Tigers led at halftime 46-17 and finished things up with a final score of 77-35. Stratford was led, as they have been all season, by their dynamic sophomore inside duo of Ben Barten and Vaughn Breit.
Both Barten and Breit led the Tigers with 11 points and junior guard Lance Heidmann had 10. Next up for Stratford is a trip to Galesville to take on Galesville/Ettrick/Trempealeau, game is set for Friday 7pm.
Stratford weren’t the only Tigers to begin their playoff quest on Tuesday night, the Marshfield Tigers also began their search of a championship gold ball at Boson Company Fieldhouse, hosting the Lumberjacks of Wausau East. Like their Tiger brethren in Stratford, these Division 2 Marshfield variety tigers were able to easily move past their opponent and on to the next round. Marshfield took down Wausau East, 61-42, and again paced by their senior star, Seth Anderson.
Anderson rang up 19 points and was helped by fellow double digit scorers, junior Reed Miller and sophomore Isaac Meverden. Marshfield led 35-16 at the half and held serve 26-26 in the second half to hold off the Lumberjacks. Next up for Marshfield is a rematch at Mosinee, tip 7pm on Friday night. Marshfield lost at Mosinee 73-71 back on February 6th.
Finishing up the quartet of games was the game of the night in Spencer, as the #8 seed Rockets hosted the #9 seed Athens Blue Jays in Division 4 action. The Bluejays flew out to a quick 13-2 start against the stunned and grounded Rockets. After their slow start, sophomore Austin Bacon, got the Rockets off the launchpad with two first half defensive steals accompanied by fast break layups. Senior Rocket, Jack Bezlyk, also helped to point the Rockets upwards in the first half with five pre-halftime points.
Bezlyk also reached his 1,000 point career scoring mark in the first half. Both teams played a relatively quiet second half until Bacon hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to tie the game at 43 and excite the eerily quiet home crowd. Neither team was crisp in the overtime period and each team only scored once, as a result the teams were still knotted up and a rare second overtime was upon them.
The second overtime was a faced paced and energetic eight minutes, with both the home and visiting crowd now making their vocal presence known. Athens sophomore Cameron Ford and Spencer’s Bezlyk traded multiple and-one shots. Spencer led by as many as four during the second overtime session and with 15 seconds to go it was Bacon stroking two from the free throw line to put the Rockets up by three.
The Bluejays ensuing offesnsive possession was unable to yield a shot and the Rockets advanced 59-56. Spencer will now travel to Auburndale Friday night to take on the very well assembled Apache’s. Auburndale features three who average double digit points, three-point sharp shooters Cooper Weinfurtner and Colton Wright, along with inside threat Cale Jacoby.
Highlights of all four Friday night games can be found on Facebook at “Zaleski Sports Show”. You can also watch Stratford at GET, Marshfield at Mosinee and Spencer at Auburndale via Live Stream at www.focusonmarshfield.com/sports