By Paul Lecker
SPENCER – The hot-shooting Spencer boys basketball team needed one more basket to defeat Auburndale. The Rockets could not get it.
Auburndale staved off a shot attempt in the final seconds to hold on to a 53-52 nonconference victory Saturday night at Spencer High School.
In a battle of two of the top teams in the area, it was no surprise the outcome would be decided in the final few minutes.
Spencer (5-1), which trailed by 13 late in the second quarter, chipped away and eventually took the lead in the fourth period.
Each team exchanged leads before Auburndale scored five straight to go up by three with just more than 1 minute to go.
Bobby Pilz scored on a drive to the basket with 50 seconds to go to cut the Rockets’ deficit to one.
Spencer forced a travel near mid-court with 39 seconds to go and wound down the clock. After a timeout with 5.2 seconds left, the Rockets tried to get the ball to Pilz, who put up a contested, off-balance shot that missed.
“We didn’t want to give them an open look,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “We wanted to make it a contested shot. Even though they had hit some contested ones, we wanted to make it as difficult as possible. We wanted to make sure we got a hand in their face and the kids did a pretty good job of that.”
Auburndale (6-1) went on a 9-0 run over a 2-minute stretch in the second quarter top open up a 32-19 lead.
A driving layup by Bobby Pilz cut the Rockets’ deficit to 11 at halftime and Spencer chipped away at Auburndale’s lead throughout the second half.
“At halftime, I just said, ‘We are a good team. We can play with these guys,’” Spencer coach Randy Reckner said. “I thought we came out with confidence in the second half and we knocked some big shots down. It wasn’t like Auburndale wasn’t playing well, every one of our shots was contested and that’s a credit to them. I think the kids kind of believed (in) themselves.”
Spencer trailed by six entering the fourth before scoring the first eight points of the period to take their first lead since the opening seconds of the second quarter.
Nate Mercier and Pilz hit 3-pointers in the run to put Spencer up 47-45 with 4:18 to go.
Matt Nikolay responded with a 3-pointer for Auburndale, only to see Mercier hit his seventh 3-pointer of the game to put the Rockets up 50-48 with 3:08 remaining.
Auburndale scored the next five points to regain a three-point lead. Alex Marth made a free throw, Nikolay hit a runner from the free-throw line and Tyler Weber stole an inbounds pass at half-court and made a layup that put the Apaches up 53-50 with 1:23 left.
Despite not scoring the rest of the way, the Apaches were able to hold on.
Mercier was 7-for-8 on 3-pointers, and Pilz made 5 of 7 from long-range, as each finished with 23 points for the Rockets. Overall, Spencer was 12 of 18 from 3-point range.
Nikolay topped Auburndale with 21 points, with 11 coming in the final 9 minutes. Auburndale shot 57 percent (19 of 33) and was 8 of 18 on 3-pointers.
“I thought in the first half we were so poised,” Weinfurter said. “We passed the ball and we saw things. In the second half they made a run and I thought we panicked a little bit. I thought we made enough plays to win it. Matt was real big. He’s starting to get a little more comfortable in that lead role.
“(Spencer) is a very good team. I would fully expect them to win their conference. They’re in our regional, so we may see them again.”
Spencer hosts Gilman in a Cloverbelt Conference East Division game Tuesday. Auburndale is off until Thursday when it hosts undefeated Marathon in a Marawood Conference South Division contest.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Apaches 53, Rockets 52
Auburndale 13 19 13 8 – 53
Spencer 12 9 18 13 – 52
AUBURNDALE (53): Jake Lewis 1-4 0-1 3, Matt Nikolay 8-12 1-1 21, Cooper Krings 2-6 1-2 7, Tyler Weber 3-3 0-0 7, Alex Marth 2-4 3-4 7, Matt Lang 0-1 0-0 0, Josh VanSchoick 3-3 2-6 8. FG: 19-33. FT: 7-14. 3-pointers: 8-18 (Nikolay 4-8, Krings 2-6, Weber 1-1, Lewis 1-3). Rebounds: 18 (Nikolay 5). Turnovers: 9. Fouls: 7. Fouled out: none. Record: 6-1.
SPENCER (52): Jonathan Tomke 0-1 0-0 0, Nate Mercier 8-10 0-0 23, Calvin Lenz 1-3 0-0 2, Bobby Pilz 7-10 4-4 23, Miles Weber 2-2 0-0 4, Mitch Susa 0-4 0-0 0, Dakota Andreae 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 18-30. FT: 4-4. 3-pointers: 12-18 (Mercier 7-8, Pilz 5-7, Tomke 0-1, Susa 0-2). Rebounds: 19 (Susa 7). Turnovers: 15. Fouls: 12. Fouled out: none. Record: 5-1.