The Bluejays played two of the top teams in the WVC in the past week and had to look on the bright side of sticking within 51-40 of Marshfield on Friday and 64-56 of SPASH on Tuesday.
The 10-3 Tigers were one of two undefeated teams in the Valley until it ran into the other on Tuesday, and Merrill stepped up its play in critical areas.
“It was probably our best defensive game of the year,” MHS coach Ross Reincke said. “We had our least turnovers of the season. They had more turnovers than us, although they obviously got more shots to drop. We held the coach’s daughter (Caitlin Michaelis) to six points when she was averaging 17.
“Were really trying to build something here, and this was a big first step, I think.”
The Tigers grabbed a 16-9 lead in the first quarter, but the rest of the way it played out very close. Marshfield inched ahead to 26-16 and 37-24 after the second and third quarters before giving up a 16-14 edge to Merrill in the fourth.
“We cut the lead down to 5-6 points in the second half, but couldn’t get closer,” Reincke said. “I was really happy with the way we played.”
Merrill is at 2-9 overall and 1-4 in the Valley, although the Jays have played both the top four team (D.C. Everest, Marshfield, Point and Wausau West).
The Jays’ contributions came from Maddix Bonnell (16 p, 2 r, 2 a), Emily Page (9 p, 4 r, 3 a), Starr Krenzke (4 p, 6 r, 2 a), Morgan Marnholtz (7 p, 2 r), Chelsey LaMonica (4 r), Mariah Turenne (3 p), Morgan Pettit (2 r) and Malayna Beyer (2 a).
Bonnell hit 2-of-3 three-pointers and 7-of-12 shots overall.
MHS–FG: 15-49 (31%); 3 pt: 4-8 (50%). FT: 6-9 (67%).
The Merrill girls were locked in a tight battle with visiting Stevens Point on Tuesday before falling 64-56. SPASh improved to 3-2 in the WVC while MHS dropped to 1-4.
A 14-12 edge became a 29-29 tie by intermission, but SPASH surged to the finish with 18-14 and 17-13 quarters.
The Jays got balanced benefits from Krenzke (11 p, 8 r), Bonnell (10 p, 4 r), Turenne (10 p, 2 a), Pettit (5 p, 6 r), Hannah Marrier (9 p), Marnholtz (6 p), LaMonica (2 p, 4 r) and Page (3 p, 2 r). Bonnell hit 71% of her field goals (5-7), while Krenzke (5-10) and Turenne (4-8) were both at 50% and Marrier shot 44% (4-9).
MHS–FG: 23-52 (44%); 3 pt: 4-9 (44%). FT: 6-12 (50%).