Neenah coach Scott Bork doesn’t want to say his boys’ basketball team has exceeded expectations this season.
But even he is a bit surprised at his team’s record at this point in January, as the ever-improving Rockets notched another impressive victory, this time a 63-53 upset victory over No. 6 ranked Stevens Point in a nonconference showdown at Ron Einerson Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if we expected to have just two losses,” Bork said of his team’s 12-2 overall mark. “But we really expected this kind of performances out of (our players).”
Bork was also pleased with the focus his team had in playing the previously undefeated Panthers, coached by former Neenah coach Scott Anderson.
Anderson, who coached six seasons at Neenah (2000-2005), remains friends with many on the Rockets coaching staff and many of the Neenah players participated in Anderson’s youth basketball camps.
That made for a highly entertaining matchup, as both teams showed off their strengths throughout most of the game.
For Stevens Point, it was their outstanding freshman combo of Trevor Anderson, Scott’s son, and forward Sam Hauser.
Both players played with a strength and resolve usually seen in more experienced players, with Anderson leading the Panthers with 23 points. He connected on three three-pointers, as did Hauser, who added 13 points for Stevens Point (14-1).
Anderson and Hauser battled Neenah’s terrific backcourt of Adam Pohlman and Taulvish McCray. The duo combined for 19 points, but the Rockets also got solid performances from sophomore center Matt Heldt and seniors Sam Erickson and Nathan Pronschinske.
Heldt, a 6-foot-10 presence, had his way with the Panthers in the paint and finished with 16 points, along with several clutch defensive rebounds, and Erickson’s hustle earned him several baskets around the hoop.
But Pronschinske may have had the two most crucial baskets for Neenah, as he had back-to-back field goals early in the fourth that pushed a slim 46-44 lead into a more manageable 50-46 advantage for the Rockets.
“Everybody just got in the mix,” Proncschinske said. “It was a great team victory and everybody did their part. It’s a great feeling.”
Bork pointed to McCray’s tough assignment on Trevor Anderson as a key to the win.
“Anderson, he can play,” Bork said. “We had Taulvish on him and I thought he did as good of a job as anybody is going to and (Anderson) hit tough shots. But eventually you hope that you can wear him down a little bit. But our kids came through.”
Free throws from Heldt and Pronchsinske and baskets from Erickson and Pohlman helped ice the game for the Rockets.
“We knew they were the No. 6 ranked team, but we knew that we’re pretty good too,” Erickson said. “We know we should be up there in the rankings and it just kind of shows how good we are and shows how good we are against other teams from around the state and not just in our conference.”
Coach Anderson believes his team took away some positives from their loss to Neenah. The Panthers have a roster filled with extremely young talent and figure to be a major player in the postseason for years to come, including possibly this postseason.
The game also meant a bit more because of Anderson’s connections to Neenah.
“This place has a special place in my heart and my family’s heart,” coach Anderson said. “It was a great place to be and we really loved our time here and have a lot of good friends here. In fact, the coaching staff, they’re all close friends of mine yet. It’s a little bittersweet because I have a lot of fond memories. But it was fun to be back in a great basketball town in a great facility against a great team. I really enjoyed the whole experience and I know our team did too.”
Stevens Point: Diekelman 6, Zelhofer 3, Hauser 13 Anderson 23, Sullivan 8. Totals: 20 5-8 53. Three-pointers: Anderson 3, Hauser 3, Zelhofer, Sullivan. Fouls: 19.
Neenah: Pronschinske 10, McCray 7, Pohlman 12, Reshel 2, Heldt 16, Erickson 16. Totals: 27 7-9 63. Three-pointers: Pohlman. Fouls: 13.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; on Twitter @PCRicardo