For the better part of 16 minutes Friday night, the Stevens Point Area Senior High boys basketball team had just about every reason to hit the panic button.
The Panthers watched Marshfield’s Matt Oestreich connect on all six of his shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, to collect a game-high 14 points at the break.
As if that wasn’t tough enough to deal with, the Tigers were treating the 3-point arc like a layup drill, draining 7 of their first 9 attempts from long range.
And when they looked up at the scoreboard with the first half winding down, Marshfield had the Panthers in a six-point hole, threatening to make the margin even wider.
Instead of losing their poise or coming unglued, SPASH turned up the heat defensively to grab a two-point lead at halftime, and then gradually pulled away for a 60-45 win in a battle of Wisconsin Valley Conference unbeatens.
Sam Hauser and Trevor Anderson — a pair of sophomores who are receiving Division I interest — paced the Panthers with 18 points apiece.
“We preach and talk a lot about mental toughness,a to not get too wrapped up up in this happened or that happened,” SPASH coach Scott Anderson said.
“A couple Tuesdays ago, I didn’t think we were overly poised,” he added. “Tonight, we took a real good step forward from a poise standpoint. We were hit by a hay-maker and stayed on our feet.”
Oestreich, who would not miss from the field on eight attempts and finish with a team-high 18 points, was landing most of the big blows for the Tigers.
More out of necessity than anything else, as Hauser spent most of the night blanketing the Tigers’ leading scorer Lucas Zuiker, who came into the night averaging 21.5 points per game.
However, Zuiker was limited to just two points over the opening 16 minutes and finished with 10.
“They were really set up to stop Luke,” Tigers coach Bill Zuiker said. “Things really snowballed on us in the second half. I really thought we needed to go into halftime with a lead for our confidence.
“SPASH is a really good team, and we feel like we’re close,” Zuiker added. “I’m sure if you ask (coach) Anderson, he’ll tell you that was not an easy victory, it just got away from us at the end.”
Actually, it happened in the blink of an eye when SPASH went first to a halfcourt trap and then extended the pressure defense the length of the court.
The Tigers began to turn the ball over and SPASH did a nice job of turning miscues into points, igniting a 7-0 run to close out the first half with the Panthers on top 24-22.
Not even the halftime intermission could slow down the Panthers, who opened the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt to gain control and put Marshfield on its heels.
“I thought the end of the half was a momentum lift for us,” Scott Anderson said. “Then in the second half, I thought we started to click on offense.”
Leading scorers: M, Alex Strege 9, Jeff Allison 3, Caleb Alexander 1, Mat Oestreich 18, Lucas Zuiker 10, Jace Krasselt 2, Zach Shortess 2. SPASH, George Diekelman 6, Sam Hauser 18, Trevor Anderson 18, Sean VanHelden 4, Andrew Ruzek 2, Jon Barnes 7, Kirien Sprecher-Kayzmarek 3, Aaron Nickel 2. 3-pointers: M, 7 (Strege 3, Allison, Oestreich 2, Zuiker); SPASH, 6 (Hauser, Anderson 3, Barnes, Sprecher-Katzmarek). FT: M, 6-11; SPASH, 14-16.
Records: SPASH 5-1; 2-0 WVC; Marshfield 3-3, 1-1 WVC.
Marshfield 43, SPASH 30
Sarah Warner scored 12 points and Brianna Flugaur contributed nine points, but the Panthers were unable to hang with the Tigers in the second half of their Wisconsin Valley Conference opener at the SPASH Fieldhouse.
SPASH lead by 2 points after the opening quarter, but watched the Tigers get on a roll offensively, outscoring 18-9 over the next 8 minutes to take control.
“Like I told the kids, I’m proud of them, they did everything we asked of them, but we just ran out of gas,” SPASH coach Derek Kirklewski said. This was the best we’ve played, and we hung with them for awhile.”
Leading scorers: M, Darian Molter 3, Ellie Fehrenbach 5, Ellie Kummer 11, Natalie Zuelke 4, Caitlin Michaelis 8, McKayla Scheuer 6, Kailey Hubler 2, Martha Kupfer 4. SPASH, Sarah Warner 12, Abby Bohanski 2, Brianna Flugaur 9, Savannah Soik 7. 3-pointers: M, 3 (Michaelis, Scheuer 2); SPASH, 2 (Soik 2). FT: M, 12-21; SPASH 8-12.
Records: SPASH 1-5, 0-1 WVC; Marshfield 1-2, 1-0 WVC.