By Jared Schmeltzer
On Thursday night the Merrill boys basketball team met up with the Marshfield Tigers at the Wausau East High School for the sectional semi-final. The game would come down to the wire, however the Tigers were able to clinch on to their second half lead and get the 64-59 win.
It was a tightly contested first half of play with Marshfield gaining a slight four point advantage as they led 27-23 going into the break. Zach Mootz led the Jays offensive attack in the first half with seven points, knocking down two three pointers and one free throw. Quinn Steckbauer would end the half with six points, as he hit one three pointer and made a free throw after making layup while being fouled. Both Chase Bonnell and Jared Olhoff had four points a piece with Bonnell hitting a three pointer and a layup, and Olhoff making two shots in the paint.
The second half of play saw Marshfield go on a run and take a 13 point lead over the Jays. The Tigers would hold that 13 point lead with just over three minutes to play in the game as the Jays would make one last comeback attempt. Merrill was able to shrink the lead and obtain possession of the ball needing a three pointer to tie the game, however it was not to be as Marshfield held on and took the 64-59 victory. Quinn Steckbauer had a good second half scoring 10 more points, bringing his game total to 16. Mootz stayed steady with seven more points in the second half, while Olhoff and Michael Casper each stepped up to score six points a piece. Casper scored all of his points with the deep ball while Olhoff did it from the inside, scoring down low. Chase Bonnell would also add five more points to his total, giving him nine points.
Bluejays head coach Jake Schalow, in only his second year as head coach of the Jays, led Merrill to a 16 win season which is the third most in the programs history. Coach Schalow had this to say about the game, “Our team competed. They showed a tremendous amount of heart and resiliency battling back from being down 13 to having the ball down 3. We just had a stretch of a handful of empty possessions, where then on the other end, Marshfield capitalized and scored. Just like many teams, I wish the season could’ve continued on, but I am very proud of our team. We accomplished many feats including snapping SPASH’s WVC win streak at 54, winning on the road vs a Top 10 team in the state in Rhinelander and winning 16 games which is the 3rd most in school history.”
Senior Zach Mootz recently passed the 1,000 career point total, only the sixth player to ever do so at Merrill as he finished the regular season with 1,030 points. During the Jays playoff run Mootz was able to tally 57 more points which was enough for him to move to third place on the Merrill all time scoring list.
Coach Schalow finished off his comments saying, “Our program will really miss this senior class, and we thank them for all of their hard work and commitment that they have given Merrill Basketball.”