The Stevens Point Area Senior High boys basketball team has answered all challenges it has faced through six weeks of the Wisconsin Valley Conference season.
Now the Panthers host a D.C. Everest squad that needs a win to keep any hopes of winning the conference title in its hands. A win today would draw the Evergreens even with SPASH with 6-1 records, while a Panthers win would mean a sweep of the season series and basically a three-game lead over Everest with five games left in conference play.
The game is set for a 7:30 start today in Stevens Point and is half of a first-place showdown between the two schools. The SPASH and D.C. Everest girls are in a three-way tie for first in the WVC and square off in a battle in Weston.
“When you’re leading the league, you kind of have a target on your back,” said SPASH boys coach Scott Anderson, whose team suffered its first of the season at Neenah on Tuesday. “People have played us tough but I wouldn’t expect anything else in this conference. There’s a lot of good rivalries, good coaches and good players in this league. It’s a lot of tough, close defensive games and you’ve got to find a way to win.
“We’ve been in a few of those and found a way to win enough of them,” Anderson added. “I would anticipate that is how (today) will be. Both teams are going to compete hard and I think its going to come down to who makes those key plays down the stretch. Hopefully we make them.”
SPASH (14-1, 6-0 Wisconsin Valley Conference) held on for a 46-42 in the first matchup between the two teams in the conference opener on Nov. 30, but neither team completely resembles the ones from that night as some players have returned from injuries that kept them out of that game. The loss was part of a 1-3 start for the Evergreens (9-5, 5-1 WVC), who have turned things around since.
“I think (the turnaround) is because of a couple things,” Everest coach Cory Heckel said. “We didn’t have a lot of guys coming in with varsity experience, but I feel this is the most skilled basketball team we’ve had. We’re shooting over 50 percent as a team.
“We’ve also been battling injuries since November. (Junior forward) Jake Stroik still isn’t back and guys like (junior guard) Nick Sierakowski are getting closer to healthy. I think that was a big part of it,” Heckel added. “We just needed time to learn how to play together and play to each other’s strengths. Unfortunately for us, it just took some time. Our team in the summer looked a lot different than it does now. It just took some time to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”