Free throws are every bit as important as making shots from the field, especially in a tight game.
Clinging to a one-point lead with 26 seconds left to play, Mosinee coach Andy Bruess watched three players go up to the line and miss four attempts. As agonizing as that might have been, time was on Mosinee’s side. Medford was unable to uncork a final shot in the last 1.7 seconds of the game as Mosinee held on for a 29-28 WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal game Tuesday night.
Mosinee travels to No. 1 seeded Rhinelander, the Great Northern Conference champ, at 7 p.m. Friday. The Hodags had a first-round bye. The teams split regular season games, including a 17-point Medford win on last Saturday.
“I really wish we would have made our free throws to finish the game off nicely,” Bruess said. “The boys executed well to get the lead and they deserved it.
“We practice free throws every day in practice, but sometimes your free throws don’t fall when you’re in a pressure filled playoff game,” Bruess added. “If you aren’t making your free throws, you need to play good defense.”
And that, Mosinee did well.
Mosinee held Medford’s leading scorer, senior Austin Salzgeber scoreless and held sophomore Taylor Dunlap under his 14.9 points per game average with 11.
“We knew where he (Salzgeber) was, we had to,” Mosinee junior Aaron Maas said. “He’s great shooter and we just made sure we always knew where he was on the court.”
The playoff victory was exciting for the players as they have been eliminated in the first round the past four years.
“This is absolutely huge,” Maas said. “”It’s been a while since we’ve won a playoff game and it feels great to be going up to Rhinelander for another game.”
Leading 28-20 with just over four minutes left to play, Medford slowly chipped away at Mosinee’s lead. Coming off the bench, sophomore Ty Wrage made two fourth-quarter 3-pointers, the second with 34.4 seconds left to make it a three-point game at 29-26.
And with 2.6 to play, Dunlap pulled up from six feet out to make it 29-28.
“Mosinee took care of the ball better than us and went high/low on with their offense and that was a good thing for them,” Medford coach Ron Lien said. “We missed some spectacularly easy shots. Austin is 36 percent from 3-point range and he didn’t hit tonight. Shooting is like a virus. When your guys start making shots it’s contagious and it’s the same with missing. As poorly as we were offensively we were right in the game. I’m proud of how the guys played, the outcome is disappointing though.”
Each possession was valuable and it took almost to the midway point of the first quarter for either team to score. Dunlap scored the first points of the game at the 4:16 mark.
“I thought we were really tentative for three quarters of the game, then with from the time it was 20-20, we went on nice run where we executed well to get the lead,” Bruess said. “Our bracket is so tough, we’re very happy to have.”
Leading scorers: Medford, Colton Langiewicz 3, Taylor Dunlop 11, Elliot Marshall 8, Ty Wrage 6; Mosinee Tyler Sondelski 4, Zach Sippl 5, Aaron Maas 12, Matt Bloanda 6, Spencer Kamke 2. Free throws: Medford 3-6; Mosinee 3-12. 3-pointers: Medford 3 (Langiewicz, Wrage 2); Mosinee 3 (Sondelski, Sippl, Maas 2).
Records: Mosinee 13-9; Medford 14-7.