By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — After a late-season slump, Spencer wanted to be the aggressor in its WIAA Division 4 boys basketball regional quarterfinal matchup with Stevens Point Pacelli.
The Rockets, who had lost four of their last six games in the regular season, took the ball to the basket as much as possible, and that strategy paid off with a 74-63 victory over Pacelli on Tuesday night at Spencer High School.
Spencer was an efficient 67 percent from the field (24 of 36) and made 21 of 27 free throws, including 16 of 21 at the line in the fourth quarter, to preserve the victory.
Spencer (18-5) moves into a Division 4 regional semifinal at Auburndale (15-7) on Friday at 7 p.m. Spencer started the season 5-0 before losing at home to Auburndale 53-52 back on Jan. 3.
Junior Bobby Pilz scored a career-high 30 points—going 10 of 13 from the free throw line—to lead the Rockets.
“We played Saturday (losing to Eau Claire Regis 77-44), and we weren’t overly aggressive,” Spencer coach Randy Reckner said. “We stressed at practice that we are going to see the same type of player (Pacelli’s James Gollon) that we saw Saturday (Regis’ Billy Wampler, who scored 35 points). We have to be the aggressors, not them.
“Bobby, Nate (Mercier), and Mitch (Susa) did a great job of pushing the ball, getting into transition and scoring. We got to the rim a lot.”
Spencer needed each and every one of those points to counter Pacelli scoring machine James Gollon.
Gollon, a senior and an Ohio University recruit, came into the game averaging 30 points per game, second-best in the entire state. He poured in 40 for the Cardinals, including all 11 of their points in the second quarter and 25 in the second half as Pacelli played catch up.
“We were hoping that he wasn’t going to score 50,” Reckner said. “There’s not a big plan against him. He’s such a good player, and he showed it tonight. My guys are hanging all over him, and they couldn’t stay with him. You just hope that everyone around him doesn’t have a big game.”
The game was tied 14-14 after one quarter before Spencer pulled away with a 13-0 run early in the second quarter.
Mitch Susa had a three-point play, and Ryan Busse, who averages 5 points per game, scored seven straight in a one-minute stretch to put the Rockets up 27-16.
Spencer led 38-25 at halftime after Pilz scored nine points in just over 2 minutes and Susa hit a basket in the final minute of the quarter.
The Rockets pushed their lead to 19 after Susa and Mercier hit 3-pointers early in the third quarter and led by at least seven the rest of the way.
Gollon had a three-point play, a 3-pointer, and two free throws to spark a 7-0 run to get the Cardinals back within 10 late in the quarter.
A three-point play by Christopher Shibilski cut Spencer’s led to 56-49 with 3:54 to go before Pacelli turned to fouling Spencer to try to get even closer.
That strategy did not work as the Rockets made 16 of 21 free throws over the final 3:11. Pilz was 6 of 7 during that stretch as Spencer maintained control of the game.
“We wanted to run our offense and make them chase us a little bit,” Reckner said. “It was a big help when we got into the bonus. He seemed like when they hit a basket, we answered, and I thought that was really big.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Rockets 74, Cardinals 63
Pacelli 14 11 15 23 – 63
Spencer 14 24 12 24 – 74
PACELLI (63): James Gollon 12-27 11-14 40, Colin Jamison 3-10 3-5 12, Christopher Shibilski 4-8 1-1 9, Patrick Rath 1-1 0-0 2, Zachary Wysocki 0-0 0-0 0, Calvin Hintz 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Jansch 0-0 0-0 0, Troy Flugaur 0-1 0-0 0, Jacob Elliot 0-2 0-0 0. FG: 20-40. FT: 15-20. 3-pointers: 8-24 (Gollon 5-12, Jamison 3-9, Shibilski 0-1, Flugaur 0-1, Elliot 0-1). Rebounds: 24 (Gollon 10). Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 24. Fouled out: Flugaur, Gollon. Record: 11-12.
SPENCER (74): Bobby Pilz 9-15 10-13 30, Mitch Susa 5-7 3-5 15, Nate Mercier 3-5 7-8 14, Ryan Busse 5-7 1-1 11, Calvin Lenz 1-1 0-0 2, Miles Weber 1-3 0-0 2, Dakota Andreae 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 24-36. FT: 21-27. 3-pointers: 5-8 (Pilz 2-3, Susa 2-3, Mercier 1-2). Rebounds: 25 (Busse 9). Turnovers: 11. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: none. Record: 18-5.