The Oshkosh North Spartans boys basketball teams might get the feeling of deja vu when they walk into Stevens Point High School today at 2 p.m.
That’s because it’s the same venue, same stakes and same team as last year when the Spartans played for the chance to go to the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament.
Oshkosh North (22-3) will face off with the D.C. Everest Evergreens (18-7) at Stevens Point in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semfinal game with the winner heading to state.
“I think the kids are excited to be back,” Spartans coach Frank Schade said. “I think they felt good about how they played on Thursday (against Stevens Point).”
Last year, the Spartans dispatched the Evergreens 53-44 to earn their trip to state.
Both teams aren’t radically different from those teams, either. Stylistically, both still play the same way as they did a year ago.
“They are still a very physical team,” Schade said. “They have some decent size and it’s going to be a problem.”
That size starts with the 6-8 Jared Gjertson on the inside for the Evergreens, who is averaging 13.4 points per game for D.C Everest.
They also have a couple of other bruisers inside, although not as tall as Gjertson, that could give the Spartans zone fits.
“We are going to have to match their size with our intensity,” Schade said. “They want to play a slow game and use their size.”
But D.C. Everest isn’t all post players. In fact, their leading scorer is a guard. Zach Finnegan leads the Evergreens, scoring 15.6 points per game. Josh Nielsen, who can go inside or out for D.C. Everest, also averages near double figures.
For North, the answer just may be in the pace of the game. Schade feels his team needs to get out and run on offense against D.C. Everest to be successful.
“We’ve got to really have the game be an up-tempo game,” he said. “We have to push the ball on offense.”
And they have the blueprint, having done just that against another Wisconsin Valley Conference opponent in Stevens Point on Thursday, in which they were able to get out in transition and take it to the Panthers, scoring 71 points in the process.
Oshkosh North will also have the benefit of playing their second-straight non-Fox Valley Association opponent, which Schade feels give his team a big advantage on the offensive and defensive ends simply because the Evergreens haven’t played against their system in a year.
“It’s a bit encouraging that we are playing outside of our conference,” Schade said. “They are certainly familiar with it, but it’s not like the FVA, where you have people scouting it and preparing for it.”
With the shortened time frame to prepare for the Evergreens, Schade knows that it’s going to come down more to what his own team does over what D.C. Everest can do.
“We could have a five hour practice trying to get through everything they (D.C. Everest) do,” he said. “You just can’t cover everything.
“We just have to care of what we do and do what we do well and stay way from the things we don’t do well. You just have to play your system and see what happens.”