By Jared Schmeltzer
On Tuesday night the Merrill boys basketball team traveled to Rhinelander in non-conference action against the Hodags. Going into the game the Hodags sat as the 7th ranked high school basketball team in Wisconsin with a record of 15-1, with their only loss coming to SPASH in their first game of the year. The Bluejays weren’t intimidated however, as they took down the Hodags by a score of 63-58.
The first half was tightly contested throughout with Rhinelander holding a three point advantage going into the break, leading the Jays 28-25. In the first half of play the Bluejays played very well but struggled to get their shots to fall as head coach Jake Schalow commented on saying, “We were playing the right way, and doing the right things early on in the game, we just weren’t capitalizing on the plays. The players kept battling and shots started to fall as the game went on.”
Only two players were able to score in the first half for the Bluejays, with those two being Zach Mootz and Quinn Steckbauer. Mootz had an outstanding first half scoring 18 of the Jays 25 points. Steckbauer was able to do the rest of the scoring, putting up seven points.
In the second half of play the Bluejays were able to step up their game on offense with more people getting involved in the scoring. The Jays outscored Rhinelander in the second half by a score of 38-30 on their way to a big win. Quinn Steckbauer picked up the scoring pace as he was able to put up 14 second half points. Chase Bonnell got himself into the scoring column as he was able to score 11 second half points. Zach Mootz followed up his big first half with six more points in the second half. Michael Casper also did a nice job as he scored five in the half.
Despite only scoring two points in the game, coach Schalow points to Jared Olhoff and Chase Bonnell (11 points) as being a huge part of the game for the Jays as he comments; “Zach and Quinn played well and made big shots when we needed them, but I thought Jared and Chase were the sparks that we needed to push it over the top. Jared had an outstanding game, and one that would not show up in the box score. Chase made a huge three pointer to pull us within two, and helped fuel our run in the second half with some nice passes.”
Coach Schalow would continue to say this about his team, “I am really proud of how we battled and found a way to get a win on the road vs the 7th ranked team in the state.”
Zach Mootz was the leading scorer for the Jays as he was able to put up 24 points. Mootz also grabbed seven rebounds, dished out six assists and had three steals. Quinn Steckbauer finished his night with 21 points and an assist. Chase Bonnell would end the game with 11 points, four rebounds, five assists and a steal.
The Bluejays will be at home this Friday as they host conference foe Wisconsin Rapids at 7:15 p.m.