By Nick Beversdorf
Merrill boys basketball started off their playoff season with a victory against Medford last Tuesday night (March 1st), beating them 70-50. Although there was a string of fouls that ended up benching some of the Bluejays players, the boys played consistently and with a sense of urgency that allowed them to not only emerge victorious, but also give play time to some of the other players.
“The game was called really tight so we found ourself in foul trouble pretty early,” comments coach Pieper. “In the 2nd half we had Zach and Drew sitting with 4 fouls when Scotty hurt his shoulder so we needed Quinn to step up and play his first Varsity minutes and he came in and didn’t look like a Freshman who hasn’t played any Varsity minutes all year, his minutes were huge, Kade also came in and gave us a big lift when we were dealing with fouls trouble.”
Riley Sutton lead the scoring drive with 13 points, most of them from 2-point field goals. Other scoring leaders from the game include Drew Hoff with 12 points, 9 of which were from 3-point field goals, Zach Mootz with 12 points, 9 of which were from the free-throw line, Austin Reissmann with 10 points, Scott Wallace with 7 points and Quinn Steckbauer with 5 points.
“I was really impressed with the 4 guys we had score in double figures,” adds Pieper. “All four of them had to sit for long periods of time due to foul trouble but they were able to stay focused and mentally ready which isn’t always easy to do. At that, it was a nice win and I know the boys really enjoyed it.”
MRL: 35 35-70, FT: 14-39 (56%)
MED: 22 28-50, FT: 8-35 (23%)
The victory run was short lived, however, as the Merrill boys suffered the same fate as the Merrill girls the day before with a loss to Hortonville. They ended up beating the Merrill Bluejays 87-49, officially ending their playoff run.
The Merrill boys held their own through most of the first period, holding a 7 point deficit until there was about 4.5 minutes left when Hortonville lead a long scoring run that put the Merrill boys in a hole too big for them to dig out of.
“We knew what they were going to do, we had a plan, but in the end their length was just too much for us, even their shorter guys seemed to have longer arms than normal,” comments coach Peiper. “Hortonville is a very very good team, they have two very talented players in Krueger and Witthuhn, and their length was just too much for us to handle.”
Nonetheless, Pieper is still impressed with how the team handled the situation.
“I was impressed with how we defended #4 (Krueger) he’s a legit D1 prospect and for the most part I thought our guys who face guarded him did a very good job, he still scored 21 but he only made 4 shots against us, the rest came from the FT line.”
Although it is still up in the air on who will coach the team next season, coach Pieper hopes that he can coach the team, and if not wishes both the team and the outgoing seniors the best.
“Well we should have a young and competitive team, the kids coming back are very talented, love the game and will work hard over the summer to continue to improve, as for my plans I guess you could say that is out of my hands, I will say that I hope I’m given the opportunity to continue to coach these kids moving forward that is what I want, but I guess for right now we will have to wait and see what the future holds.”
“The Senior group will be missed,” adds Pieper. “They are an awesome group of kids and I couldn’t be prouder of them for how they handled themselves through a difficult season, they are all true leaders”