Friday night, the Merrill varsity Boys (13-8) kicked off their 2017 post-season debut headed northbound for Rhinelander, for a WIAA Regional-Semi Final showdown with the Hodags (14-8).
The Jays came into the contest flying high on a 5-game win streak after placing in a 3-way tie for third place in the powerhouse laden Wisconsin Valley Conference, following a rather surprising and interesting chain of events late in the season.
The Hodags had compiled a four-game win streak of their own, which had been suddenly snapped by Wausau-East (59-53) in their final game of the season last Saturday.
The Hodags would go on to draw first blood Friday night in what would prove to be a dogfight; leading Merrill 27-25 headed into the locker room at intermission.
The tooth and nail fight would continue into the second with the Hodags coming out on top in a tight 58-55 win.
“It is always disappointing when the season comes to an end,” comments first-year head coach Jake Schalow.
“It is hard knowing that it is the last game for the seniors, and that they will not be apart of the program next year. I wish them the best of luck on their future endeavors.”
“I thought we did what we needed to do to get a win. We did a great job of limiting Owen White’s shots and touches, and forced them to become a jump shooting team. Offensively we had one bad stretch where we turned it over too many times and that was what ultimately got us beat. I cant say enough about the players on the team, and the way they battled. I am really proud of them. We were a team that was not given much attention and was picked to not be very successful (7th/7th). However, we finished up 6-6 in conference (Tied 3rd Place) and 13-9 overall.”
Junior guard Zach Mootz capped his season with another impressive resume of 23 points (7/19 FG, 4/8 3pt, 5/7 FT, 5r, a). Quinn Steckbauer added another 11 (3/7 FG, 1/1 3pt, 4/4 FT, r, 7a), followed by Jared Ollhoff and senior center Jon Gruetzmacher tying with 8 points (3/6 FG, 1/3 3pt, 1/2 FT, 5r) Gruetzmacher 8 points (4/4 FG, 5r) respectively.
MHS 25 30-55
RHS 27 31-58