The Bluejay boys will be advancing to the sectional level after a 55-51 triumph at home Saturday night that killed a 13-game win streak from Mosinee.
“Mosinee is a lot like Antigo,” MHS coach Kurt Soderberg said. “They have a lot of tough kids that really compete. We’ve got a heck of a rivalry going with Mosinee these last couple of years.”
Merrill trailed 26-24 at halftime and 32-29 early in the third quarter before a 10-5 mini-run started and ended by Austin Reissmann pairs of free throws, including a Jake Anderson scoop and two Chaz Mootz drives. After Mosinee closed to 39-39, an Anderson jumper and two more Mootz drives wrapped around his foul shots made it 47-41 going into the fourth.
Two more Mootz pushes bumped it to 51-41 by the middle of the fourth, but Mosinee closed it to 51-46 within a minute and worked back to 52-51 with 1:16 remaining after the Jays went on a dry stretch from the line, missing 4-of-5 free throws, including three front end of bonus tries. But Mosinee committed an offensive foul in the final minute as they were making the go-ahead basket, and Mootz canned a pair of throws with :26.7 left for a 54-51 edge. His steal led to a lay-up and the free throws came in response to technical foul on Mosinee’s coach, objecting to the play.
Drew Hoff came up with a critical steal with just seven seconds remaining as the Indians were looking for an open three. He was fouled and dropped the first free throw to give Merrill a finally comfortable lead of 55-51 with just :05 left.
Mootz finished with 24 points and Reissmann gave 14 to the cause. Other Merrill scorers included Anderson (8) , Scott Wallace 94) and Jon Gruetzmacher (4). Mosinee was paced by Matt Bolanda (12) and Ben Fox (11), who hit three threes in the second half to keep Mosinee in the game.
Valley runner-up Merrill (16-10) has qualified for Thursday’s sectional game in Stevens Point with Shawano (20-5, 4th in the Bay Conference). The Hawks actually defeated Merrill 54-34 in Merrill in its second game of the season back on Dec. 9. The Jays last reached the sectional level in 2011.