By Paul Lecker
MADISON – Auburndale’s incredible postseason run to the state tournament was a testament to how good the Apaches could play together as a team.
If one player struggled, another picked him up. When facing taller opponents, the Apaches’ will and determination allowed them to be the ones dominating the rebounding battle.
On Thursday night in a Division 4 state semifinal at the 2015 WIAA State Boys Basketball Tournament, Auburndale’s effort and fight was as good as ever, but this time it was not enough as the Apaches lost to undefeated Mineral Point 66-59 at the Kohl Center.
Auburndale (19-8) started out the game on an 11-2 run and led by as much as 10 before Mineral Point turned the tables with a 16-4 run to take the lead midway through the second quarter.
The game was tied at 29-29 at halftime and from there the Pointers dominated. Mineral Point outscored Auburndale 11-4 over the first 4 minutes of the third quarter and never trailed again as it moves on to the championship game.
Mineral Point (27-0) will play three-time defending Division 4 state champion Whitefish Bay Dominican (24-3) in the title game at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m really happy with the way our kids competed,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “Our effort was fantastic. The offensive rebounding just killed us. That’s something throughout the playoffs, facing some really big teams, we did an excellent job on offensive boards. I think that was a major difference in the game tonight.”
Auburndale notched the first eight points of the game as four different Apaches scored.
Cooper Krings came off the bench and scored five quick points, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the Apaches up 16-6 with 1:56 left in the opening period.
Turner Poad hit back-to-back 3-pointers to calm the nerves of the Pointers and get them back in the game as they trailed 20-12 after one quarter.
Mineral Point started to dominate the inside, scoring seven second-chance points off five offensive rebounds in the second quarter.
A 10-0 run, capped by a Joey Grogen 3-pointer, gave Mineral Point its first lead at 22-20.
Another Krings 3-pointer put Auburndale back up briefly and a basket from Tyler Weber in the final minute of the half knotted the game at 29-29 at halftime.
The offensive rebounding of the Pointers continued to hurt Auburndale in the second half.
Three times in the first 5 minutes of the second quarter Mineral Point scored off an offensive rebound as it built a 46-37 lead after Poad’s third 3-pointer.
Auburndale got as close as six only to see the Pointers push their lead to 11 early in the fourth quarter after an Alec Schmitz 3-pointer.
Jake Lewis responded with a 3-pointer for the Apaches and they were within eight with 5:13 to go, but didn’t score for nearly 3 minutes and fell behind by 14.
Alex Marth, who hadn’t made a 3-pointer all season, made two in the final 2 minutes to get the Apaches to within six with 34 seconds left but they couldn’t get any closer.
Marth and Krings each finished with 14 points to lead Auburndale. Tarek Oellerich had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Poad had 17 points for the Pointers.
“Our senior group, it’s not nearly our most talented, but it’s one of those groups that a coach dreams about as far as cohesiveness,” Weinfurter said. “The effort got better and better as the year went on and it’s really hard seeing it end because I really enjoyed being around these kids.”
Nikolay, who led the Apaches in scoring at 16 points per game, was held to just eight on only five shot attempts.
Mineral Point coach Dan Burreson said it was his team’s mission to slow down the Auburndale point guard.
“We were in a man-to-man, which we tried to start, and we were going to go no-help and try to double, and in the 1-3-1 we were going to try to trace him as much as we could,” Burreson said. “We weren’t going to leave him. We were going to communicate and know where he was at all times. He’s a heck of a player.”
Auburndale’s eight seniors were able to fulfill a dream by playing the final game of their career on the Kohl Center floor, and giving the boys basketball program its 10th state tournament appearance – all coming since 1991.
“Adding to that Auburndale tradition is all that we ever wanted,” Nikolay said. “A lot of people doubted us this year, especially with seven losses in the regular season, but we started playing real well in the postseason.
Notes: Auburndale shot 66.7 percent (12 of 18) from the field in the first half and finished 23-for-38 (60.5 percent) for the game. The D-4 state tournament record is 64 percent, which was set by Auburndale in its semifinal win over Amherst in 2013. … Krings scored in double figures for the first time this season, pouring in a career-high 14 points off the bench for Auburndale. His previous high was nine against Augusta back in December. … Dominican will go for a fourth-straight D-4 title on Saturday. The Knights beat Auburndale two years ago in the state championship game. Senior center Diamond Stone scored 33 points and had 15 rebounds in Dominican’s 93-54 win over previously unbeaten Eau Claire Regis on Thursday. The 93 points was the most ever scored in a Division 4 state tournament game.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Pointers 66, Apaches 59
Auburndale 20 9 11 19 – 59
Mineral Point 12 17 17 20 – 66
AUBURNDALE (59): Alex Marth 5-9 2-4 14, Josh VanSchoick 3-6 1-2 7, Jake Lewis 2-3 1-2 7, Matt Nikolay 3-5 1-2 8, Tyler Weber 2-3 1-2 5, Cooper Krings 6-9 0-0 14, Matt Lang 1-1 0-0 2, Bryan Gehrke 0-1 0-0 0, Collin Hawkins 0-0 0-0 0, Luke Olsen 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Peplinski 1-1 0-0 2, Logan Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Caleb Weinfurter 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 23-38. FT: 6-12. 3-pointers: 7-14 (Marth 2-3, Lewis 2-3, Krings 2-4, Nikolay 1-2, VanSchoick 0-1, Gehrke 0-1). Rebounds: 22 (VanSchoick 8). Assists: 13 (Nikolay 6). Turnovers: 13. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: Lewis. Record: 19-8.
MINERAL POINT (66): Tarek Oellerich 9-15 5-7 23, Sy Staver 2-8 2-2 6, Joey Grogen 2-7 2-2 8, Turner Poad 6-12 1-1 17, Alec Schmitz 4-8 3-5 12, Jordan Kittleson 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter Paradis 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Ryman 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan MacGilvra 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 23-50. FT: 13-17. 3-pointers: 7-20 (Poad 4-8, Gorgen 2-6, Schmitz 1-4, Staver 0-2). Rebounds: 25 (Oellerich 11). Assists: 13 (Staver 7). Turnovers: 8. Fouls: 6. Fouled out: none. Record: 27-0.