By Steve Pilz
AUBURNDALE – The No. 1 seed Auburndale Apaches finally shrugged off a scrappy Spencer Rockets squad in a WIAA Division 4 boys basketball regional semifinal Friday night with a strong start to the second half.
The Apaches won 69-52 at home to advance to a WIAA Division 4 regional final Saturday. Auburndale (18-5) will take on Thorp (15-9) at 7 p.m. Thorp topped Phillips 67-44 on Friday.
The eighth-seeded Rockets (8-16) took an early 6-5 lead at the 14:30 mark but Auburndale, third place finishers in the powerful Marawood South quickly took control after that and ran their lead to 24-13 with seven minutes left in the half.
Reserve junior Eric Ehlert came off the bench for the Rockets to hit his second 3-pointer of the night, which was followed by Austin Bacon’s second 3 as well on their next trip down, to get the Rockets to within three at 32-29.
The Apaches led 34-29 at the intermission on the strength of 10 points by Colton Wright and nine by Cooper Weinfurter.
“I thought we played really well in the second half,” said Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter. “I thought the first half and even some stretches in the second half, they hit some tough, tough shots. I thought our defense in the second half was better but give them credit. (Austin) Bacon and (Brett) Kasch and some of those guys hit some really tough shots.
“We had a few nerves in the opener, which is natural. We scored earlier in the first half and then finished down the stretch. We did what we had to do.”
The Apaches did what they had to do to start the second half and that was to score the first five buckets.
The Rockets didn’t get a hoop till the 12:04 mark when Bacon hit a jumper. Bacon hit two more 3s in the half, and Ehlert and Kasch chipped in one each, but their cold spell cost them. Colton Wright dropped in 11 more to finish with 21 points, and Weinfurter added eight more for 17 on the night as nine Apaches found the scoring column.
“I was extremely proud of the guys tonight,” said first-year Spencer coach Clint Nieman. “They played hard the whole game. They left it all on the court and I can’t ask for more than that.
“It’s been a good year. There’s been some ups and downs, but I’m excited about the future of the program. I’m looking forward to coming back and building on what we started this year. I’m very thankful for our seniors and how they handled themselves and helped the younger players.”
The Rockets had a trio of players in double figures with Bacon leading the way with 19, and Ehlert and Kasch with 11 and 10, respectively.
OnFocus and ZaleskiSportsShow.com will have highlights of the Auburndale-Thorp game Saturday night.
Apaches 69, Rockets 50
Spencer 29 23 – 52
Auburndale 34 35 – 69
SPENCER (52): Brett Kasch 3 2-2 10, Austin Bacon 7 1-2 19, Kaleb Brandt 1 0-1 2, Eric Ehlert 4 0-0 11, Nate Karau 1 0-0 2, Trinity Larson 4 0-0 8. FG: 20-44. 3-pointers: 9-18 (Bacon 4, Ehlert 3, Kasch 2). FT: 3-5. Turnovers: 13. Record: 8-16.
AUBURNDALE (69): Cooper Weinfurter 5 6-6 17, Paul Kollross 1 0-0 2, Kaden Hoffman 1 0-0 2, Hunter Wright 3 2-3 9, Fletcher Raab 2 0-0 6, Cody Trowbridge 0 1-2 1, Carter Wilcott 2 0-0 5, Aaron Marth 3 0-0 6, Colton Wright 10 3-4 21. FG: 25-50. 3-pointers: 8-23 (C. Wright 2, Raab 2, Weinfurter, Wilcott, H. Wright). FT: 12-15. Turnovers: 9. Record: 18-5.
Steve Pilz writes for MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to OnFocus Sports.