Columbus Catholic turns up the defense to top Edgar in WIAA Division 5 boys basketball regional final

Columbus Catholic senior Jarred Mandel drives inside for a basket during the first half of the Dons' win over Edgar in a WIAA Division 5 boys basketball regional final Saturday night at Columbus Catholic High School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/MarshfieldAreaSports.com)

By Paul Lecker
For OnFocus

MARSHFIELD – An atypical slow start had the Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball team in a back-and-forth game early.

The Dons’ zone defense made it tough on Edgar in the latter part of the first half and Columbus eventually pulled away and pulled off a 58-39 victory in a WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal on Saturday night at Columbus Catholic High School.

Columbus Catholic (23-3) will play Almond-Bancroft (23-3) in a sectional semifinal on Thursday at Wausau East. Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran and Gibraltar will play in the other semifinal at Ashwaubenon, with the winners meeting on Saturday, March 9, at Wausau West for the sectional final.

“It’s really hard to get to Week 2 (of the playoffs),” Columbus Catholic coach Joe Koniecnzy said. “You have to win three games, and by time you get to this round you’re playing really good schools. I think our bracket is tough. We beat a really good team, a young team, a well-coached team, a team that was missing a guy (Drew Guden). We’re fortunate to make it to Week 2 and I think the word we use is grateful.”

Edgar led 5-2 early before the Dons pulled ahead on a quick 6-0 run as Bryce Fuerlinger, Ethan Meece and Jarred Mandel all scored inside.

The game was tied 10-10 after a 3-pointer from Edgar’s Konnor Wolf, and Columbus led 13-12 after a layup by Karson Butt for the Wildcats, before the Dons’ defense made life miserable for the visitors.

Columbus Catholic’s Ethan Meece eyes the basket inside during the first half of the Dons’ win over Edgar in a WIAA Division 5 boys basketball regional final Saturday night at Columbus Catholic High School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/MarshfieldAreaSports.com)

The Dons closed the half on a 15-3 run over the final 8:25, which started with a technical foul on Butt for taunting after his layup.

Edgar missed 10 of its final 11 shot attempts in the half as the Dons’ two-three zone, spearheaded by Meece and Fuerlinger at the top, caused chaos.

“We have some length and their guards a little bit smaller than ours,” Konieczny said. “We thought our length would at least make them think about it. They play so hard, and are so unselfish, that we wanted to make them think before they whipped the ball around and got a layup.”

Columbus led by double figures the entire second half as its lead ballooned to 43-19 after starting the half on a 16-4 run to cap an overall advantage of 31-7 over a 15-minute stretch.

Fuerlinger was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Dons. Meece led Columbus with 15 points, and Noah Taylor added 12 in the win.

“We told them to enjoy it tonight and by 4 of 5 o’clock tomorrow they need to forget it and move on to Thursday,” Konieczny said. “Almond-Bancroft is a great team. We have our hands full on Thursday, so let’s enjoy this for a little bit but let’s move on tomorrow.”

Dons 58, Wildcats 39
Edgar 15 24 – 39
Columbus Catholic 27 31 – 58
EDGAR (39):
Caden Higgins 1-7 2-2 5, Karson Butt 3-8 2-2 8, Konnor Wolf 3-11 0-0 8, Cole Schilling 0-1 0-0 0, Nathan Drabek 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Dahlke 2-5 0-0 6, Jaxson Kurtzwell 1-1 0-0 3, Lucas Mueller 0-0 0-0 0, Kaleb Hafferman 0-2 0-0 0, Kyle Brewster 1-10 0-0 2, Maxmilian Larson 0-0 0-0 0, Brayden Baumgartner 3-6 1-2 7. FG: 14-51. FT: 5-6. 3-pointers: 6-21 (Dahlke 2-4, Wolf 2-6, Higgins 1-3, Kurtzwell 1-1, Baumgartner 0-1, Schiling 0-1, Brewster 0-5). Rebounds: 30 (Baumgartner 8). Turnovers: 17. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Butt. Record: 17-8.
COLUMBUS CATHOLIC (58): Noah Taylor 5-12 1-3 12, Will Boyer 0-0 0-0 0, Tom Nystrom 2-5 0-2 5, Bryce Fuerlinger 6-6 1-2 13, Zach Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Eden Jacobson 0-0 0-0, Gage Stratman 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Meece 5-8 3-4 15, Kellen Heinzen 1-2 3-4 5, Wyatt Drexler 0-0 0-0 0, Jarred Mandel 3-14 1-1 8. FG: 22-47. FT: 9-16. 3-pointers: 5-18 (Meece 2-3, Taylor 1-3, Nystrom 1-4, Mandel 1-8). Rebounds: 36 (Fuerlinger 14). Turnovers: 13. Fouls: 10. Fouled out: none. Record: 23-2.

Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to OnFocus sports.