By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – It may have been expected that the Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball team, with four new starters and a slew of others playing varsity minutes for the first time, would be a little slow coming out of the gate to start the 2017-18 season.
That was the case, as the Dons struggled offensively in a 58-43 loss to Wisconsin Rapids Assumption in its opener on Nov. 24; however, the struggles may not have lasted past that one game.
Columbus scored 51 first-half points the next day in a 76-51 win over Nekoosa, put up 90 points in a 53-point victory over Colby on Nov. 28, and put the clamps down defensively to beat Spencer 62-47 on Dec. 1.
The defending Cloverbelt Conference East Division champions are now 3-1, a perfect 2-0 in the conference, and once again look to be the team to beat.
Juniors Ethan Meece, Bryce Fuerlinger, Noah Taylor, and Jarred Mandel have joined senior Nick Malovrh, the only returning starter, in the lineup. All have scored in double figures at least once thus far, with Malovrh expectedly leading the way.
Malovrh has scored 20 points or more in the Dons’ three wins, including 25 against Spencer. He scored 19 in the first half and kept Spencer from gaining any momentum after it rallied twice to tie the game before the Dons pulled away in the second half.
“We switched to man and their possessions became a lot longer,” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Konieczny said. “We were contesting more shots and holding them to one shot. Offensively, Nick knocked down some shots. We missed a lot of layups and free throws tonight, but we had enough of Nick Malovrh to get us through.”
Seniors Peyton Nystrom, Noah Hansen, and Matt Olson, as well as junior Evan Dieringer have been seeing plenty of playing time off the bench as the Dons search for depth.
As the season will be a work in progress, Columbus seems to be on the right track.
“We have to develop consistency,” Konieczny said. “I thought in the Assumption game we weren’t real strong, the next two games we had better effort, and (against Spencer) was kind of a mix of both. We lost four really good players (to graduation), and we’re only four games in, so hopefully we continue to learn.”