Merrill boys face extremes in Everest event

Merrill’s attempt to finally crack the .500 mark on the boys hoops season took another hit when they dropped a 76-70 game to 15th-ranked Superior in last Wednesday’s game at D.C. Everest.
But the locals pulled back within a game of the median at 4-5 with Thursday’s 64-42 triumph over Eau Claire North.
The Bluejays were competing in the Valley/Big Rivers Conference Challenge. Superior dropped its first game of the season to WVC co-leader Marshfield (8-0) on Wednesday.
“The one positive is we turned the ball over 20 times against Superior and we still had a chance to win,” MHS coach Kurt Soderberg said. “That says something I guess. We’ve been very good with ball security.
“I feel we’re still a team finding its way. There’s no reason to hit the panic button, but we all feel it’s a game we should have won. It’s another quality team that we’ve played tight. We’ve lost to five teams that were undefeated, and Rapids (9-0) is the only one that really stomped on us. Hopefully this will pay off, the chance to play really good teams.”
The teams played to a 15-15 tie through a quarter, but the Spartans surged ahead 35-28 by halftime. Merrill cut it to 53-48 through three quarters before giving up a 23-22 edge in the fourth.
Paul Jesperson led the way with 32 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Others included: Sam Arneson (11 p, 5 r, 4 a), David Jesperson (8 p, 3 r, 4 a, 2 bl), Sam Koebe (12 p), Matt Woller (4 p) and Kyle Andreska (3 p).
“Paul had a big night,” Soderberg said.
Merrill did connect on 11-of-21 three-pointers.
Merrill-FG: 21-35 (60%); FT: 17-25 (68%). Superior-FG: 24-45 (53%); FT: 23-28 (82%).
Chomping Eau Claire
A 21-8 second quarter blew open an 11-11 game with winless North, and an 18-9 edge in the third left little doubt. The teams played to a 14-14 tie in the fourth.
“It was just an excellent team effort,” Soderberg said. “We needed more bench support because our top 5-6 guys were getting tired out too early in games, and we did it. There were a lot of positives in that game.
“Had we beat North by 4-6 points we wouldn’t have been happy. When you’re supposed to beat a team, you go out and do it, and do it in the right way. We just wore them down with too many big bodies.”
Paul Jesperson lit it up with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 steals. Woller (13 p), David Jesperson (7 p, 3 a), Jared Wardall (6 p, 3 r), Koebe (3 p, 6 r), Mitch Czech (5 p, 3 r), Andreska (5 r), Matt Thistle (4 p) and Arenson (3 r) all contributed.
“Paul almost had a triple-double, which is almost unheard of in high school because the games are shorter with fewer possessions,” Soderberg said.
Merrill-FG: 26-56 (46%); FT: 7-11 (64%). ECN-FG: 16-43 (37%); FT: 4-11 (36%).

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