By Jared Schmeltzer
On Friday night the Merrill boys basketball team hosted the SPASH (Stevens Point Area Senior High) Panthers. SPASH came into the game with a 56 conference game winning streak which Merrill would snap as they took the 78-75 victory.
Merrill was able to get the early jump on the Panthers going up by 10 points in the first half, before SPASH cut the lead down to seven before the half was over. Quinn Steckbauer led the Bluejays in scoring in the game and would finish the first half with 11 points. Zach Mootz who finished second in scoring for Merrill had nine first half points to help Merrill extend their lead. SPASH’s Drew Blair led all scorers in the game and would carry the Panthers scoring 18 of their 25 first half points.
In the second half of play there was a lot more offense for both teams with SPASH outscoring the Bluejays in the half 50-46. SPASH’s Blair put on a show in the second half scoring 29 points in the half bringing his point total to 47, however Steckbauer and Mootz were able to counter that combining for 33 second half points (17 points from Steckbauer and 16 from Mootz). Michael Casper also played an important part in the Merrill offense scoring 11 points on three three-pointers and two free throws. The game would come down to the last possession with SPASH missing a half court shot to tie the game in the final seconds, as Merrill took the 78-75 win.
“This win is obviously huge for our program.” Comments Merrill head coach Jake Schalow, continuing to say, “SPASH has been the gold standard of what programs are trying to build to and reach. They have great talent, well coached, and are well prepared for every game. I am really proud of how our guys competed and battled, and how they were able to follow our adjustments that we made throughout the game.”
Quinn Steckbauer led Merrill in points in the game with 28, as well as leading the team in assists with five. Steckbauer bounced back after a tough free throw shooting night against Lakeland where he went three for seven, by making nine out of his 11 attempts in the game. Zach Mootz was able to put up 25 points in the game and come down with a team high eight rebounds.
With this conference win the Bluejays sit in second place in the conference at 3-1 behind Marshfield who is also 3-1, but beat Merrill head-to-head earlier in the season. The Bluejays will be back in action on Tuesday as they travel to Wisconsin Rapids for another conference match up.