The high-octane Dons have the makings for a strong season but must navigate injuries
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Columbus Catholic High School boys basketball team is putting up some ridiculous numbers so far, and with a talented group of sharp shooters, the Dons look poised to do something special again this season.
Columbus Catholic began the season with a bang, scoring 101 points in a win over University School of Milwaukee, and followed that up with a narrow win over Wisconsin Rapids Assumption plus three more double-digit victories over Loyal, Auburndale, and Gilman, topping 80 points in each.
The 5-0 record is all that matters for the Dons, who finished just one game out of first place behind Spencer and tied with Neillsville in the conference standings a year ago.
All three teams are again expected to compete for the Cloverbelt East crown, and the Dons’ early showing may be sending a message that they could be the team to beat.
Junior guard Hunter Schultz dropped in a career-high 37 points in the opener and has hit double figures in all four of the Dons’ wins, averaging 25.8 points per game overall.
Fellow junior Tyler Fuerlinger has led Columbus in scoring the past two games, tallying 22 points in each, and senior Evan Nikolai is a reigning second-team all-conference performer with a 16 point per game average.
The trio of Schultz, Fuerlinger, and Nikolai — along with seniors Billy Young and Matthias Gouin and sophomore guard Nick Malovhr coming off the bench — has been lethal for opponents thus far.
Missing are junior Ryan Dieringer and senior center Brett Loveland, who are both coming off injuries and are expected back some time during the second half of the schedule. This leaves just seven healthy varsity players, including junior backup wing Charles Payant, on the roster.
“We’re not deep,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “If we can get Loveland and Dieringer back here by the end of January, that would really help us. We have to be smarter to cover up the lack of depth. Guys picking up four or five fouls just can’t happen for us.”
The Dons’ schedule picks up a bit next week when they host Neillsville on Tuesday and play at Colby on Dec. 18. A game at Granton on Dec. 21 will close out the calendar year, giving the team a much-needed two weeks off before it returns to action Jan. 5 after the winter break.
For a team short on the bench, and one that plays as up-tempo as the Dons do, the break will be welcome. The additional four minutes added on to the game with the new timing rules implemented this season, plus the switch to halves from quarters that gives players two fewer built-in breaks during the game, could start to take their toll.
“Without the quarter stoppages, coaches will have less time with their teams during the game,” Konieczny said. “Players will have two less rest periods. Having an experienced team, requiring less coaching adjustments, and having a deeper rotation will be definite advantages.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.