By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Spencer boys basketball team snapped a 14-game losing streak to Marshfield Columbus Catholic and on top of that, opened up a two-game lead in the loss column in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division with a hard-fought, 48-43 victory over the Dons on Thursday at Columbus Catholic High School.
The Rockets had not beaten Marshfield Columbus Catholic since both teams became part of the Cloverbelt Conference in the 2007-2008 season and last topped the Dons on Dec. 29, 2006, to win the Columbus Holiday Tournament that year.
The victory pushes Spencer’s record to 8-1 overall and 7-0 in the Cloverbelt East. Columbus is now 8-5 overall and 7-2 in the conference. Owen-Withee stands at 6-2 after defeating Neillsville (5-3) on Thursday.
“There’s still a lot of the basketball season left, and we’re not taking anything for granted, but yes, this is a huge win here tonight,” Spencer coach Randy Reckner said. “It was a great atmosphere, a great crowd for both sides. It was just a big win for us.”
Spencer looked like it might put this one away early, jumping out to a 9-2 lead as it dominated the offensive boards. All nine of those points came after offensive rebounds, including five from Mitch Susa.
Susa’s basket at the buzzer put Spencer on top 13-7 after one quarter, and another buzzer-beater by Bobby Pilz put the Rockets up 23-11 at halftime.
Columbus Catholic crawled back into the game in the third quarter, holding Spencer to just 3 of 7 shooting and forcing seven turnovers.
A 3-pointer by Tyler Fuerlinger and a three-point play and a 3-point shot by Hunter Schultz brought the Dons to within two at 29-27.
Evan Nikolai, who led the Dons with 13 points and five rebounds, scored with 10 seconds to go in the period as Columbus was within a 31-29 score heading into the fourth quarter.
Spencer started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run propelled by a basket and two free throws from Nate Mercier, but again Columbus responded.
The Dons scored the next nine points. A 3-pointer at the top of the key from Christian Payant tied the game at 38-38 with 3:12 to go.
Spencer was able to ease back to the lead at the free throw line, making six-straight and 8 out of 10 over the final three minutes.
A 3-pointer from Schultz, who had 12 points for the Dons, cut Spencer’s lead to 46-43 with 32 seconds left, but Columbus did not score again. Pilz made 2 of 4 free throws in the final 21 seconds to put it away.
Calvin Lenz had 14 points off the bench, and Ryan Busse added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets. Lenz made four-straight free throws and hit a breakaway layup in the final 3 minutes for Spencer.
“Defensively, we were really, really good early,” Reckner said. “You hold a Columbus team to 11 in the first half, you are definitely doing something right on the defensive end. Overall in the game, rebounding was a big key.
“Calvin Lenz really stepped up. That’s big for him coming off the bench.”
Spencer plays a nonconference game at home against Rib Lake on Monday, while the Dons return to action Tuesday at home for a Cloverbelt East game against Loyal.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Rockets 48, Dons 43
Spencer 13 10 8 17 – 48
Columbus Catholic 7 4 18 14 – 43
SPENCER (48): Nate Mercier 2-7 4-4 6, Calvin Lenz 4-9 6-9 14, Bobby Pilz 2-8 3-6 7, Miles Weber 1-4 2-2 4, Ryan Busse 3-9 2-2 8, Mitch Susa 4-10 1-1 9, Dakota Andreae 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 16-47. FT: 18-24. 3-pointers: 0-9 (Lenz 0-1, Mercier 0-2, Pilz 0-2, Susa 0-4). Rebounds: 31 (Busse 10, Susa 7, Weber 7). Turnovers: 17. Fouls: 12. Fouled out: none. Record: 8-1, 7-0 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.
COLUMBUS CATHOLIC (43): Billy Young 1-2 0-0 2, Ryan Dieringer 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Behling 0-1 0-0 0, Christian Payant 2-5 0-0 5, Evan Nikolai 6-14 0-0 13, Hunter Schultz 4-14 1-1 12, Tyler Fuerlinger 3-7 2-4 9, Brett Loveland 1-5 0-0 2. FG: 17-48. FT: 3-5. 3-pointers: 6-19 (Schultz 3-9, Fuerlinger 1-2, Nikolai 1-3, Payant 1-3, Loveland 0-1, Behling 0-1). Rebounds: 27 (Fuerlinger 5, Nikolai 5, Young 5). Turnovers: 18. Fouls: 19. Fouled out: none. Record: 8-5, 7-2 Cloverbelt East.