Bluejays top Northland Pines in record breaking performance
The Merrill boys basketball team celebrated their senior night on Monday, Feb. 24, as they played host to Northland Pines. The Jays left it all on the floor for their final regular season game of the year, topping the Eagles 100-74. Merrill High School senior Michael Casper had a spectacular night, not only setting a new school record for most points scored in a game, but also being the 8th MHS basketball player to eclipse the 1,000 point mark.
“It was a special night honoring our 8 seniors,” said Merrill head coach Jake Schalow. “I was very happy with how we competed in the 2nd half and got some momentum with a solid defensive effort. Our defensive pressure was able to speed up the game and allow us to get out and run in transition. They have a number of solid shooters, but I thought we did a pretty decent job closing out to them and forcing them into tough, contested shots.”
The first half of play saw a lot of close action with Northland Pines controlling the lead for the majority of the half. Near the end of the half the Jays would sting together a couple stops on defense and some good shot making gave them a 42-39 lead going into halftime.
In the second half of action Merrill would take over and control the lead for the entire half. Led by Casper, the Jays would continue to build on to their lead throughout the half, outscoring the Eagles 58-37.
A 56-year old Merrill High School record of 44 points scored by Jim Langenkamp in 1964 would finally get outdone. Michael Casper compiled 45 points on his senior night, knocking down 10 three pointers along the way. Casper’s hot night wasn’t all about scoring, as he kept his teammates involved as well dishing out 8 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“It was an extra special night for Michael Casper,” added coach Schalow. “He played one of the most complete and impressive games I have seen from any high school player. Michael has certainly earned his accolades and is very deserving of a night like he had Monday. He has put in a lot of time and hours that nobody sees working on his game. I feel very fortunate to be able to coach him.”
Other notable performances for Merrill include: Nathan Woller (16 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast); Caleb Timm (13 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast); Isaac Sutton (10 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast) and Piersen Pyan (7 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast).
The Bluejays got a two seed for the WIAA Division 2 playoffs. Merrill has a bye in the first round and will play the winner of 7th ranked Rhinelander and 10th ranked Ashland on Friday, March 6. Merrill will be host, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.