From the opening tip until the final buzzer, Paul Dimka did not take a seat during his coaching debut with the Wausau East boys basketball team Tuesday.
Dimka stood in front of the Lumberjacks’ bench throughout the game with his arms folded in front of his red East sweatshirt, or raised above his head to implore his players to do the same on defense. At times he simply folded his hands atop his head in frustration.
When it was over, Dimka cracked a smile as the host Lumberjacks held on for a 36-31 win over Mosinee in a nonconference matchup and season opener for both programs.
“Probably a half hour before the game I started to feel the nerves. Once the game got going, the natural (instincts) took over, I’ve coached a long time,” said Dimka, who served as an assistant for 15 seasons before taking over for Jason Teske this season. “Definitely a little bit different look and a little bit different responsibility, but I think after the first couple minutes it was all good.”
Sophomore 6-foot-4 forward JP Lacy, making his varsity debut, led the Lumberjacks with 10 points, and was part of an East bench that contributed 22 points.
“We just brought some energy,” said Lacy, who played freshman basketball all of last year.
East led 16-5 at the break after a sluggish first half that could be expected for the first game of the year. Neither team managed a field goal until halfway through the first quarter, and Mosinee — settling for mostly outside shots –went 1 of 14 from the field.
“I thought we were too passive in the first half. I wanted them to be patient, but not that patient,” Mosinee coach Andy Bruess said. “We had a hard time figuring out their zone and then I thought we did a nice job battling back in the second half, but when you’re missing shots it’s tough. We would get within two, three or four and just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Zach Sippl and Matt Bolanda both scored nine points to lead Mosinee.
Mosinee closed to within 18-16 on Max Soderberg’s basket with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third quarter, but East answered with five straight points. The Lumberjacks held an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, but allowed Mosinee to hang around by twice missing the front end of a one-and-one bonus free throw attempts.
Mosinee got to within three points, but Jaden Rutowski hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to seemingly give Dimka and East a chance to relax.
“Those last 11 seconds went pretty fast, we were just trying to burn the clock,” Dimka said. “When the final horn buzzed, I guess that’s when I finally relaxed.”