Dons clinch second-straight conference crown
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball team overwhelmed Neillsville with a relentless 2-3 zone trap that forced 30 turnovers and led to an 83-45 rout to clinch sole possession of its second-straight Cloverbelt Conference East Division championship on Monday night at Columbus Catholic High School.
The Dons shot 52 percent (31 of 60) from the field, taking almost more than twice as many shots as Neillsville, which finished 13 of 32.
Columbus finishes the Cloverbelt East season with a 15-1 record and is now 20-1 overall. Neillsville is 14-7 and ends up 11-5 and in fourth place in the conference.
Columbus forced 18 turnovers in the first half and used a 27-5 run that turned an early one-point deficit into a commanding 32-11 lead in a matter of eight minutes.
Playing its second game without starting point guard Hunter Schultz, who is sidelined with a foot injury, the Dons had to turn to their bench to provide a spark.
Sophomore Ethan Meece came through with 10 of his 13 points in the first half, and junior Noah Hansen added six points as well in the opening 18 minutes.
The starters did quite well too with Tyler Fuerlinger scoring 16 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and junior guard Nick Malovrh pouring in three 3-pointers and 14 points in the victory.
“We had some young guys that are having to step in and fill some shoes,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “They did a really good job. I thought Friday night (in a loss to Loyal) we learned a lot. Those sophomores and juniors that are playing more now because of the injury are really stepping up. I’m very, very proud of them.
“Ethan Meece, Noah Hansen, Jarred Mandel, some young guys really stepped up. It was Senior Night, and for those seniors we’re just happy to get a win for them.”
Columbus used a 7-0 run to end the first half to take a 48-17 lead at the break, and Fuerlinger scored the first four points of the second half to make it 52-17.
Neillsville didn’t get closer than 26 points the rest of the way.
Konieczny said Schultz is in line for a follow-up exam later this week and that there is a possibility he will return a week or so after that, should the Dons advance in the WIAA playoffs that begin Tuesday.
In the meantime, it is important for others to step up, he said, and if Monday’s game was any indication, the Dons should be in good hands.
“We’re trying to get our kids to understand that if we can fill that hole until Hunter comes back, we’ll be better for it,” Konieczny said. “We’re going to get him back and have some guys that had to improve because we needed them to. We’re going to turn a negative into a positive.”
Columbus will play in the Cloverbelt Conference Crossover first-place game on Saturday at Altoona High School. The Dons will play Chippewa Falls McDonell (18-3), champions of the West Division, at 2:45 p.m. Owen-Withee will take on Stanley-Boyd in the second-place game at 1 p.m.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Dons 83, Warriors 45
Neillsville 17 28 – 45
Columbus Catholic 48 35 – 83
NEILLSVILLE (45): Hunter Hand 2-3 0-0 4, Logan Matson 1-3 1-2 4, Cody Roman 0-1 1-2 1, Alex King 2-6 2-2 6, Noah Henchen 1-2 0-0 3, Montee Diestler 0-0 0-0 0, Isaac Bryan 4-7 0-0 10, Paul Miller 1-3 2-2 5, Adam Schmidt 2-7 7-8 12. FG: 13-32. FT: 13-16. 3-pointers: 6-13 (Bryan 2-4, Miller 1-1, Matson 1-1, Henchen 1-2, Schmidt 1-3, King 0-2). Rebounds: 25 (Bryan 6). Turnovers: 30. Fouls: 22. Fouled out: none. Record: 14-7, 11-5 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.
COLUMBUS CATHOLIC (83): Jarred Mandel 3-6 2-6 8, Charles Payant 1-2 0-0 3, Ryan Dieringer 1-4 1-1 4, Peyton Nystrom 0-1 2-4 2, Matt Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Nick Malovrh 5-9 1-2 14, Bryce Fuerlinger 1-1 0-0 2, Nick Hutchison 1-1 0-0 3, Ethan Meece 5-5 3-5 13, Tyler Fuerlinger 11-27 1-1 25, Noah Hansen 2-2 3-5 7, Karak Bushman 0-1 0-0 0, Evan Dieringer 1-1 0-0 2. FG: 31-60. FT: 13-24. 3-pointers: 8-21 (Malovrh 3-6, T. Fuerlinger 2-6, Hutchison 1-1, Payant 1-2, R. Dieringer 1-4, Nystrom 0-1, Mandel 0-1). Rebounds: 28 (T. Fuerlinger 8). Turnovers: 9. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: none. Record: 20-1, 15-1 Cloverbelt Conference East Division.