Bluejays keep conference championship hopes alive
By Jared Schmeltzer
On Friday night the Merrill boys basketball team traveled to Wisconsin Rapids in what was a must win for the Jays if they are to take home the conference championship. Rapids would take the Jays to overtime, however Merrill stayed strong and came out on top with a 77-73 victory.
“I am really proud of how our team competed,” comments Merrill head coach Jake Schalow. “We had to fight to a lot of adversity on Friday night with having foul trouble, a poor shooting night, and handling Rapids big run to finish regulation and then the first two minutes of overtime. I thought our team showed great heart and resiliency in battling to get back into the lead and finishing the game.”
The first half of action saw the Jays take an early lead on Raiders and hold on to it for the majority of the half. Merrill would hold a nine point lead at one point in the half, however would go into halftime leading 28-24.
In the second half the Jays would steadily hold on to the lead, however a late Rapids run tied the game and forced an overtime period.
Overtime started with a run by the Raiders, however the Jays were able to weather the storm and make a run of their own to take the 77-74 win.
Coach Schalow was proud of how his team stepped up saying, “I thought Michael Casper and Quinn Steckbauer did a tremendous job of finishing the game off in OT, getting to the rim and also finishing from the free throw line. Michael had the huge steal leading to a transition layup to get us the lead which we never gave up. Due to all of our foul trouble, Bryce Dresen and Piersen Pyan played in the crunch time minutes, and basically all of overtime, and did a solid job defensively to help seal the win.”
Steckbauer led the Jays in scoring for the game with 31 points. Steckbauer also had four rebounds and a steal. Casper ended his night with 19 points, three assists and two steals. Chase Bonnell finished the game with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists.
The Jays are currently in first place in the Wisconsin Valley Conference with a record of 7-2. Merrill will look to take another big step towards a conference championship on Thursday as they host second place Stevens Point at 7:15 p.m.