Jays almost upend SPASH
The Merrill boys gave undefeated SPASH a serious run for its money in the MHS Fieldhouse Friday night.
The Panthers entered the game with an 11-0 record and a 3-0 Valley mark, while Merrill was just 4-6 and 1-2.
But the Jays overcame an early 8-4 deficit to take a 16-13 halftime lead, before dropping a 39-35 contest in the second half.
“It was just an outstanding high school game,” MHS coach Kurt Soderberg said. “We had a really good game plan and there were four things we needed to do to win.
“We had to keep them out of the lane. We needed to play without fouling them. We had to rebound well, and we had to score from the free throw line. We did three of the four things, but only got to the free throw line three times for the entire game, which is way below our season average. We don’t have a ton of control over the fourth thing.”
Free throw opportunity was the most-glaring discrepancy in the contest, with Point canning 11-of-12 and Merrill hitting 2-of-3.
The other was Merrill making 1-of-15 three-pointers to 6-of-14 for SPASH.
David Jesperson came up big for the Jays, drilling 13-of-16 two-point shots and both free throws for 28 points, to go with 15 rebounds.
“David just played outstanding,” Soderberg said. “But we didn’t get enough scoring around him. We had open looks from behind the arc multiple times, but we just didn’t knock them down.”
Merrill actually trailed 8-0 early, but got back into it with some effort.
“I really can’t commend our kids enough on their relentless defense,” Soderberg said. “We had three good looks early and just didn’t hit them, but the kids hung in there and leaned on their defense.
“We had SPASH bottled up until their outstanding freshman (guard Trevor Anderson) hit three threes in the second half that were just daggers. They’ve got a strong freshman class. (Forward Sam) Hauser wasn’t much of a factor in this game, but he’s their second-leading scorer, so he’s a guy you have to account for.”
Merrill may have lost, but the Jays are still on the upswing.
“We’re a good team; I know that,” Soderberg said. “We’re 4-2 in our last six games and the two losses were to Point (12-0) and Eau Claire Memorial (6-6), and both were right down to the wire.
“The thing is it’s too bad for our kids. They deserved the win. They out-played them most of the night.”
Merrill–FG: 16-38 (42%); FT: 2-3 (67%). SPASH–FG: 11-32 (34%); FT: 11-12 (92%).
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