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Auburndale remains in contention for conference title
By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE – The Auburndale boys basketball team is searching for consistency, and the win over conference co-leader Stratford on Jan. 12 might be what it needs to find it.
Auburndale made 17 of 25 free throws in the second half to hold off the Tigers 50-47 in a Marawood Conference South Division matchup at Auburndale High School.
The victory keeps the Apaches in contention for a conference title at the midway point of the season. Instead of being two games in back of Stratford, the Apaches are now in a four-way tie for first place, along with Stratford, Marathon, and Wisconsin Rapids Assumption after the Royals topped Marathon 64-63 in overtime on Jan. 12.
While Auburndale finished 20 of 29 at the free throw line, Stratford ended up just 7 of 23, which proved to be the difference.
“I thought our rebounding was good against a really good rebounding team, and I thought we took care of the ball well enough,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “They are as good of a defensive team as we play. Cooper’s (Weinfurter) play in the second half was huge and we got to the free throw line, and that’s what we wanted. We shot free throws better than them.”
Auburndale (9-3 overall) made 13 of 14 free throws in the opening 7½ minutes of the second half, including eight straight by Cooper Weinfurter, but couldn’t shake the Tigers.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Stratford’s Teddy Redman tied the game at 32-32 with 9:53 to go.
Auburndale responded with a 10-1 run, ending on a basket by Cason Schmutzer with 5:41 left.
Stratford (10-2 overall) had one more run in them. Chandler Schmidt, Lance Heidmann, and Vaughn Breit brought the Tigers to within one at 45-44 with 2:07 remaining.
The Apaches went up by three after a basket by Cale Jacoby, and Stratford missed two shots, including a desperation three-quarters court shot at the buzzer.
Auburndale has now won four of its last five games since a loss at Edgar on Dec. 21.
“It’s our level of consistency, coming out ready to play,” Chad Weinfurter said. “It’s no disrespect to the teams we lost to, not saying they shouldn’t beat us, but we didn’t come out ready to play. We’re slowly learning what it takes to be ready for every game and I’m hoping that carries us through the second half of the season.
“That’s the big thing, having that same mentality every game of coming out and being ready to play. You’re not going to shoot well every night. Defensively we have to play this style of basketball. Defensively, we haven’t been very good. The kids know that. They’re working at it, it’s just coming slow.”