It goes against all basketball logic.
With the game up for grabs and time winding down, a Stevens Point Area Senior High boys basketball team which relies extensively on a pair of freshmen time and again demonstrates the poise and where with all to come out on top.
What SPASH has done — the Panthers have won 10 of 22 games by eight points or less in a storybook season to date — completely flies in the face of common wisdom that experience is the vital ingredient in dealing with late-game pressure.
One of those freshmen, Sam Hauser, has a simple explanation for how the young Panthers, who also feature a handful of juniors sprinkled in with a three seniors, have been able to make plays down the stretch despite their relative inexperience.
“We work on that (late-game situations) in practice every day. We put 3 minutes on the clock and the scored is tied 45-45,” Hauser said. “It’s about playing hard-nosed ‘D’ and executing on offense.”
And treating nerves like something to be scoffed at.
So here are the Panthers (22-2) preparing for a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal contest with Oshkosh North tonight having proven that no situation seems too big, and no matter what the scoreboard might say there is never a reason to panic.
After another close call in the regional final Panthers coach Scott Anderson says it not a matter of having one player who exudes the clutch gene.
Rather everyone who sees the floor is capable of making a play on either end of the court that ultimately enables them to come out on top.
“Whether it’s (Eric) Zelhofer, or Hauser or (George Diekelman) or (Jon) Barnes, all of them can shoot it and that gives us multiple options. It’s huge when the rest of the guys step up and make plays,” coach Anderson said.
And lets not forget freshman Trevor Anderson, the coach’s son, who has shown time and again this season he thrives with the game on the line, and seems to relish the moment.
A case in point came in the regional semifinal when SPASH took everything Appleton West could throw at them only to have Anderson erupt for 25 second-half point and 33 overall in a 67-59 win.
That heart-stopper was a prelude to yet another night filled with anxiety in the regional final when Fond du Lac had the Panthers on the ropes only to have Hauser and junior guard Jon Barnes rise to the occasion in a 59-54 thriller.
SPASH’s coach has every reason to believe the matchup with the Spartans (21-3) on their home floor for a berth in the sectional championship game on Saturday will test the resolve of his young team yet again.
“North is another great team. They have a really tough point guard in (Nathan) Neveau and a nice post player in (Blake) Marquardt who’s around 6-foot-6,” Scott Anderson said. “It’s going to be another stiff test, but there is nobody I’d rather go over there with than this group of guys.”
Nothing has come easy all season, and Hauser doesn’t expect that to change now.
“We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a tough game, it’s going to be a trench fight,” the freshman said.