Jays wrap up third in Valley with Rapids victory
Working a solid win over fifth-place Wis. Rapids on Thursday, in conjunction with Wausau West’s two-point loss to Valley runner-up Marshfield, pushed the Merrill girls into third place in the final WVC standings with an 8-4 record.
“It was nice to end the conference season with a win and to get a win on Senior Night,” MHS coach Melissa Yuska said. “We have seven seniors. We’ll use this as momentum as we head into the playoffs. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The girls built the foundation of their 47-35 victory early, taking 15-10 and 22-15 leads in the first two quarters. The Raiders cut it 29-25 in the third quarter, but Merrill put it away with an 18-10 difference in the fourth.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” Yuska said. “We’d pull away with a lead and they’d make a little run back into it.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games. They sat in a zone the entire game and slowed things down. We did a good job of ultimately taking what was available and being patient on offense. It made the game a little boring, but we did a good job of having patience and breaking them down with our defense.”
Renee Sladek led all scores with 20 points, and she added six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Renee did a good job of finishing inside against their big girl,” Yuska said. “We did a nice job of getting her the ball when she was open; she did a nice job of kicking it out when they collapsed the inside. She had several nice bounce passes to the opposite side for a lay-up.”
Other contributions for Merrill came from: Dawn Leland (9 p, 3 a, 3 st); and Anna Finnell (8 p). Numerous others made smaller offerings.
Merrill–FG: 21-39 (54%); FT: 4-4 (100%). WR–FG: 16; FT: 2-7 (29%).
The Bluejays improved to 14-7 overall. They will host the winner of Tuesday’s Medford (7-13)/Lakeland (12-10) regional opener at 7:00 p.m. on Friday. MHS handled Medford 52-21 on Dec. 2 and Lakeland 47-26 on Dec. 13.
“We’ve played both of those teams, but that was earlier in the season and most teams have improved,” Yuska said. “We’ve got to be ready to go.
“The playoffs are an exciting time of the year. Hopefully we can play our best basketball and have some fun. It’s nice to host the first game of regional.”
As the #1 seed, Merrill just needs to win Friday to also host the regional final at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. The opponent would come from a pool of #2 Mosinee (15-7), #3 Rhinelander (12-10) and #6 Wausau East (1-20).
Everest captured the WVC crown with an 11-1 mark, while Marshfield was 10-2.