By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE — The Auburndale and Wausau Newman Catholic boys basketball teams came into the Marawood Conference South Division finale on Thursday with identical records, so it was no surprise that the game was close throughout and came down to the final shot.
Newman surged ahead with an 8-3 run over the first 5:40 of the fourth quarter and held off a missed 3-point shot at the buzzer to beat the Apaches 43-41 at Auburndale High School.
Newman’s Jason Tubbs made two free throws with 20.9 seconds to go, and after a basket by Alex Marth, Nick Thoreson made one of two at the free throw line, putting the Cardinals up 43-41 with 4.3 seconds left.
After an Auburndale timeout, Matt Nikolay took the inbounds pass and threw a long pass to Jake Lewis who dribbled twice and launched a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, but it hit off the right side of the rim to end the game.
Newman improves to 15-6 overall and finishes the Marawood South season with an 8-4 record and a second-place finish behind undefeated Marathon. Auburndale is now 13-7 and ends up 7-5 and in third place in the conference.
“There were different options off the play, giving the kids a chance to make a play,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said of the final play. “He got a good look. With four seconds left, you can’t ask for a much better look than that. It just didn’t go in.”
Newman led 13-11 after one quarter, and the lead went back and forth throughout the second. A basket by Dane Fronek put the Cardinals up 21-17 before Nikolay and Bryan Gehrke hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Auburndale a short-lived 23-21 advantage.
A basket by Jeff Ford with 15 seconds to go tied the game at 23-23 at halftime.
Both teams were 10 of 20 from the field in the first half.
Auburndale started strong in the third quarter. Baskets by Lewis, Marth, and Cooper Krings gave the Apaches a 29-23 lead, but from that point on it was a struggle for Auburndale.
Newman scored the next six points, and the score was tied 31-31 heading into the fourth as Auburndale missed five of its final six shots of the period.
The offensive struggles continued as the Apaches did not make another shot from the field until there was only 2:33 left in the game when Josh VanSchoick scored inside, cutting Newman’s lead to 37-34.
Newman made four of six free throws in the final minute and held off the final shot attempt to secure the win.
“In the second half, we struggled getting shots, and they made it real tough on Matt (Nikolay),” Weinfurter said. “They have long athletic kids and some quick kids. He had been carrying us for so long, and tonight he didn’t have a real good shooting night. We didn’t have too many guys step up.
“I thought Bryan Gehrke hit a couple of big 3s for us, but other than that, we needed other guys to step up.”
Auburndale plays a nonconference game at home against Abbotsford on Monday.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Cardinals 43, Apaches 41
Newman Catholic 13 10 8 12 – 43
Auburndale 11 12 8 10 – 41
NEWMAN CATHOLIC (43): Mitch Michalske 1-1 0-0 2, Jason Tubbs 2-2 2-2 6, Nick Thoreson 2-3 1-2 6, Bailey Lemke 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Gajewski 4-10 3-3 11, Dane Fronek 6-13 0-4 12, Jeff Ford 3-3 0-0 6. FG: 18-32. FT: 6-11. 3-pointers: 1-1 (Thoreson 1-1). Rebounds: 15 (Ford 7). Assists: 16 (Ford 5). Record: 15-6, 8-4 Marawood Conference South Division.
AUBURNDALE (41): Jake Lewis 1-4 0-0 2, Matt Nikolay 2-10 0-1 5, Bryan Gehrke 2-3 0-0 6, Cooper Krings 1-3 0-0 2, Tyler Weber 1-1 0-1 3, Alex Marth 5-8 0-0 10, Matt Lang 1-2 0-1 2, Dylan Peplinski 0-1 0-0 0, Josh VanSchoick 5-11 1-2 11. FG: 18-43. FT: 1-5. 3-pointers: 4-12 (Gehrke 2-3, Weber 1-1, Nikolay 1-4, Krings 0-1, VanSchoick 0-1, Lewis 0-2). Rebounds: 19 (Nikolay 5). Assists: 13 (Nikolay 5). Record: 13-7, 7-5 Marawood Conference South Division.