THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tournament Axe Falls Hard On Area Teams
Anyone within earshot of the hallway leading into the visitors' locker room at Peshtigo Saturday could clearly hear the Winneconne players and coaches trying to snap themselves out of their first half funk.
"They're going to start falling in the third," said Wolves' head coach Nate Ryf, loudly, just before letting the door close behind him.
Turns out, he was right.
The Wolves, down 24-15 at the break while struggling from the field, turned it around with a 20-10 third quarter that saw the two teams reverse their first half roles, on their way to a 43-40 regional semifinal upset over the second seeded Bulldogs.
Early on in Saturday's game, Peshtigo looked determined to keep their magical season going.
Down 5-4 following a three-pointer from Winneconne's Zach Horn, the Bulldogs rattled off nine straight. Zach Neumann, after missing from long range on Peshtigo's previous trip down the court, answered Horn's score with a trey of his own, making it 7-5 for the home team. Following a stop, Peshtigo did a tremendous job of moving the ball around the top of the key before Dakota Keller turned an open look into a three pointer for a 10-5 Peshtigo lead.
Not quite done with the early clinic, the Bulldogs scored on yet another three pointer with a great play from Neumann, who set a screen for Jordan Berth at the top of the key before rolling off his defender and getting the ball back from Berth for a wide open look.
Number 15 (Neumann) capped the pretty play with a shot that caught nothing but nylon, pushing the Peshtigo advantage to 13-5. The Wolves battled back to close the quarter down by just five at 18-13 but would have gotten to 15 points had it not been for a Berth block in the lane at the buzzer.
Peshtigo turned up the defensive intensity for the second quarter, not allowing the Winneconne squad onto the scoreboard until nearly five minutes had been played. The Bulldogs were also doing a great job on the glass as the game got further into the second quarter and resulted in some easy buckets at the other end on the way to a nine point lead at the break.
Then came the night-and-day third frame that saw the Bulldogs go cold and the Wolves catch fire. Winneconne got their big push in the third frame thanks to a series of tenacious play from Adam Marx.
Marx got the Wolves to within six at 26-20 on a sweet jumper from beyond the arc and then came up with a crafty stop against Berth at the other end before getting the ball back and draining another long distance shot, slicing the lead to just three at 26-23.
"We aren't used to seeing teams that can rebound that hard," said Peshtigo head coach Ryan Spaulding, who saw his team's once-healthy lead slashed to just one point by the end of the third. "We just gave them too many second shots."
The fourth quarter brought more of the same. The Bulldogs couldn't find their scoring touch. They struggled to get open looks for shooters like Neumann and Gunner Kinney, who played a big role in the Peshtigo surge earlier in the game and they also couldn't seem to stop the offensive onslaught Winneconne was bringing against the Bulldogs' zone defense.
"I told them after the game that they have a lot to be proud of," said Spaulding. "We had two major weaknesses in that second half that cost us the game. Our inability to score and also our inability to get out on their threes. But I think the bottom line for our season is that the guys had a better season than they had a year ago. These guys built on the foundation laid by the guys who came before them. There's a lot to be proud of, the tradition is getting better every year."
Berth connected for 11 points on 3-10 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds, Neumann added 11 points and 4 boards, Kinney 6 points and 4 rebounds while Keller chipped in with 5 points.
Gereau was the top gun for Winneconne with 13 points and 7 boards while Horn added 10 points.
Peshtigo made 12 of 41 shots (29%), but just 3-17 on threes (18%).