Andrew Ruzek demonstrated just how badly the Stevens Point Area Senior High boys basketball team didn’t want to see its season end Saturday night.
With 6 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first half, Ruzek poked the ball away from an Oshkosh North guard, and with total disregard for his body dove on the court for the loose ball.
If that wasn’t enough, Ruzek had the presence of mind to call a time-out to save the possession in a one-point game at the time.
In typical SPASH fashion this season, the junior center was more than willing to do the dirty work, and leave the glory up to the dynamic sophomore tandem of Trevor Anderson and Sam Hauer.
And the special duo certainly did their part as Anderson tied a school record with 41 points and Hauser chimed in with 25 and 12 rebounds to help send the Panthers to sectional play with a 92-75 trouncing of Oshkosh North in a WIAA Division regional final.
“From the 14th guy to the coaches to the starters, we were all locked in and played amazing,” said Anderson, who matched the 41-point effort Tom Szymanski turned in during the playoffs in 1976.
Next up for the Panthers (23-1) is a sectional semifinal date with Neenah, a 66-42 winner over Appleton North, at 7 p.m. Thursday in Fond du Lac. The Rockets handed SPASH its only loss of the 63-44 on Nov. 26.
The Panthers are hoping to have a better showing this time around, and if they can compete and shoot anywhere close to their performance against North,
“A lot of kids made a lot of plays (tonight),” SPASH coach Scott Anderson said. “We read on a couple places where Oshkosh North was supposed to win this one.
“We’re just going to worry about ourselves, prepare and try to be at our best next Thursday, and then let the chips fall where they may.”
Saturday marked the first time the Panthers tasted victory in a head-to-head meeting with North in seven tries.
More importantly, the outcome enabled SPASH to erase the memories of a 71-47 pounding they took at the hands of the Spartans in sectional semifinal action a year ago.
In sharp contrast the the previous meeting when SPASH looked baffled and mesmerized by the length on North’s 1-3-1 halfcourt trap, this time around the Panthers spent most of the night utilizing exceptional ball movement to shred its signature defense.
“That was the best performance we’ve seen (this season),” Spartans coach Frank Schade said. “They played a good game and were a much better team than we were.”
North had no choice to but to desert its zone in favor of a -man-to-man approach after the Panthers drained 11 of their first 17 attempts from behind the 3-point arc.
Once SPASH got a chance to look at the man-to-man defense, it was all but over.
The Panthers closed out the third quarter with a 10-2 spurt that pushed their lead to 67-52, and then the Spartans had no answer for Trevor Anderson who got to the basket at will and scored 26 of his 41 points after the break.
“We definitely remembered last year,” Trevor Anderson said. “The coaches preached to us that we had to be 25 points better this time, and we definitely brought it today.
“Last year maybe you could say we were afraid, but this year we looked to score and attack.”
Leading scorers: Oshkosh North, Nathan Neveau 18, Nick Bauer 8, Cooper Radtke 22, Blake Marquardt 14, Seth Taylor 13. SPASH, Sean Van Helden 7, Sam Hauser 25, Trevor Anderson 41, George Diekelman 10, Jon Barnes 5, Kirien Sprecher-Katzmarek 4. 3-pointers: ON 8 (Neveau 2, Bauer 2, Marquardt 2, Taylor 2); SPASH 12 (Van Helden, Hauser 4, Anderson 4, Diekelman 2, Barnes). FT: ON 12-13; SPASH 15-18.
Records: SPASH 23-1; Oshkosh North 20-4.