Going into the holiday break, the Spencer boys were riding high with a 7-1 mark, putting them right in the thick of the Cloverbelt Conference-East Division race.
The second half of the season, in particular the past week and a half, has been tough on the Rockets.
Losses to Owen-Withee, Neillsville and Columbus Catholic took Spencer out of the conference race, but back-to-back wins — something the Rockets haven’t done since December — over Rib Lake on Monday and Tuesday’s 53-46 win over Gilman, has the Rockets showing signs of returning to the level they were at earlier in the season.
“We played very emotional last week and it was difficult playing the top teams in the conference,” coach Randy Reckner said. “Tonight was our sixth game in nine days and I could tell we had tired legs. They played hard and so did Grilman, but our guys need to get their legs back.”
Reckner is giving the boys a day off before Colby comes to town Thursday. On Monday the Rockets travel to Columbus Catholic and then play their conference crossover game Thursday to close out the regular season.
“The conference was tough and balanced this year and I knew we would be in the race, and I think it’s just a matter of getting back to where we where earlier in the year for the playoffs,” Reckner said.
“I think we were more consistent with our overall game tonight. Gilman played well. We would lead by 10 or 11 and when they cut it to 6 or 7 points, we found a way to push the score back out to that double digit lead again. In the playoffs we’ll need to keep leads when we get them and not let teams get back into the game.”
Playing with a lead, like the Rockets did tonight will be a key in the playoffs, according to senior Joe Meyers.
“We play better in the second half, so if we can start fast and not play from behind, we’ll be better off,” said Meyers, who finished with 14 points against Gilman. “We have to remember when we we’re playing good and work hard, I think we can get hot again in the playoffs.”
Having three players scoring in double digits like they did against Gilman will go a long way to returning to top form. In addition to Meyers, Bobby Pilz led the Rockets with 18 points and shot 50 percent from 3-point range and Jeremiah Cattanach chipped in with 11.
“I think we surprise teams with our speed,” Reckner said. “We have good team speed and get out and go. We’re going to keep working hard at being consistent for four quarters and I think we’ll be ready for the playoffs.”
GILMAN (46): Trevor Lepak 3, James Cipenhaver 24, Tyler Amborn 13, Colton Schmitt 6.
SPENCER (53): Jeremiah Cattanach 11, Bobby Pilz 18, Mitchell Susa 4, Joe Meyers 14, Calvin Lenz 2, Cody Esser 4.
3-pointers: Gilman 3 (Copenhaver 2, Amborn); Spencer 7 (Cattanach, Pilz 4, Meyers 2). Free throws: Gilman 3-8; Spencer 2-4.
Records: Spencer 12-6, 11-5 Cloverbelt; Gilman 5-14, 5-11 Cloverbelt.