By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE – The Auburndale boys basketball team cranked up its defensive pressure early and often, leaving Spencer without an answer offensively.
The Apaches forced turnovers on seven of Spencer’s 11 possessions to open up a big lead and were able to cruise past the Rockets 61-40 in a WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal at Auburndale High School.
Auburndale (16-7) moves on to a Division 4 regional final at Marathon (23-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday. Marathon defeated Auburndale twice during Marawood Conference South Division play this season, winning 48-40 at Auburndale on Jan. 8 and 64-55 at home on Feb. 10.
Marathon defeated Edgar 41-20 in a regional semifinal Friday night.
Auburndale was able to punch the ball inside throughout the game and ended up shooting 67 percent (21-for-31), doing most of the damage from point-blank range.
Senior center Josh VanSchoick made 8 of 10 shots and finished with a game-high 19 points, and senior forward Alex
Marth was 6 of 7 and added 17 points for the Apaches. Senior guard Matt Nikolay added 16 points and seven rebounds.
“Our defensive plan, the kids executed very well,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “They have some very good offensive players and I thought defense was the key. Offensively, our big guys finished well. We were able to get it inside on their zone. They’re so good at the match-up zone and I thought Josh and Alex finished so well underneath, and the guards did a good job finding them.”
Auburndale led 12-3 after dominating the first 6 minutes. VanSchoick had six points and Marth four in the run that gave the Apaches the lead for good.
Auburndale led 16-9 after one quarter and pushed it to 30-10 with a 14-1 run to start the second quarter.
Spencer never mounted much of a run at the Apaches’ lead.
Miles Weber scored five of his nine points early in the second quarter and Bobby Pilz drilled two 3-pointers early in the fourth, but the Rockets never got closer than 17 after Auburndale’s big run to start the second quarter. Pilz had a team-high 16 points for Spencer.
“They were a lot more aggressive starting the game than we were,” Spencer coach Randy Reckner said. “You have to give a lot of credit to their big guys inside. They were pretty much the key. They were getting easy looks inside and we just couldn’t answer.
“It’s disappointing, but don’t take anything away from our season. We had a really good year. We were conference champs. The kids worked hard the whole year.”
Auburndale’s two losses to undefeated Marathon were two of only four single-digit victories for the Raiders this season. In order to change the outcome, and win a third-straight regional title, the Apaches will have to play well with and without the ball.
“We have to defend like we did tonight,” Weinfurter said. “I think a big key is to make it as hard as possible to score. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but it’s not always easily done. They are so talented one through six or seven or eight – they’re the deepest team around, at our level anyway. And we have to take care of the ball. We can’t give them extra opportunities since they are so talented.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Apaches 61, Rockets 40
Spencer 9 5 14 12 – 40
Auburndale 16 18 13 14 – 61
SPENCER (40): Jonathan Tomke 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Zastrow 0-0 0-0 0, Nate Mercier 0-6 6-8 6, Calvin Lenz 0-1 0-0 0, Bobby Pilz 6-16 0-0 16, Aaron Pankratz 0-0 0-0 0, Miles Weber 4-7 1-1 9, Jack Burnett 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Meyers 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Busse 0-1 0-0 0, Mitch Susa 3-7 0-0 7, Dakota Andreae 1-1 0-2 2. FG: 14-39. FT: 7-11. 3-pointers: 5-16 (Pilz 4-10, Susa 1-3, Mercier 0-3). Rebounds: 10 (Pilz 3). Turnovers: 13. Fouls: 19. Fouled out: Busse. Record: 18-6.
AUBURNDALE (61): Jake Lewis 1-3 0-2 2, Matt Nikolay 4-6 6-6 16, Bryan Gehrke 0-1 0-0 0, Cooper Krings 1-1 3-3 5, Tyler Weber 1-3 0-0 2, Alex Marth 6-7 5-7 17, Matt Lang 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Peplinski 0-0 0-0 0, Josh VanSchoick 8-10 3-4 19. FG: 21-31. FT: 17-22. 3-pointers: 2-8 (Nikolay 2-4, Lewis 0-2, Gehrke 0-1, Weber 0-1). Rebounds: 24 (Nikolay 7, VanSchoick 7). Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: none. Record: 16-7.