Three weeks of Boys Basketball: Three losses, three wins, one in triple overtime
In a game where three-pointers are unparalleled, three could be this team’s lucky number; Turenne sets school record with 22 rebounds in a single game
TINA L. SCOTT
Last Tuesday, Dec. 28, and Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, the Merrill Boys Basketball Team traveled to Wisconsin Dells for the Dells Holiday Tourney.
In Game One against Reedsburg on Tuesday, the guys suffered a loss, down 15 points at the end of the game, for a final score of 34-49.
“It was a rough shooting night to say the least,” said Coach Troy Pieper. “We struggled all around, and we were missing a couple regulars, as well, which didn’t help us find our stroke on offense.”
“The game was tight at halftime, but a run to start the second half – due to us not taking care of the ball well at all at the start of the half” made for a tough second half, he said.
“I do think it was one of our best defensive performances,” Pieper said. “Giving up just 49 points is playing winning basketball on the defensive side; however, when you just can’t find a way to get shots to fall, sometimes a great defensive performance can still result in a loss.”
High scorers for Merrill were Troy Mootz (6 FG, 1 FT, 2 Ast, 1 Stl) with 13 points, Bradyn Pieper (2 FG, 1 3pt, 3 FT, 2 Ast, 2 Stl) with 8 points, and Cayden Diels (2 FG, 1 3pt, 1 FT, 1 Stl) with 6 points.
Merrill 34 @ Reedsburg 49
Game Two at the Dells Holiday Tourney playing against Wisconsin Dells on Wednesday was a whole different story. The Merrill Bluejay Boys won the game 79-78 in triple overtime!
“What a crazy game! It’s hard to sum this one up,” Coach Pieper said.
Merrill was down, 29-36 at the end of the first half, but they made up for it in the second half, scoring 34 points to tie up the game at 63-63 when the buzzer went off. In the first overtime, both teams put up three points apiece. Second overtime both teams put up another five points each. That led the teams into triple overtime, where the Wisconsin Dells team put up seven points, but Merrill edged them out with eight points for the win.
“We had Bailey Turenne (6 FG, 2 3pt, 6 FT, 5 Ast, 3 Stl) back for this one, and he played great like he has most games this year. He set the school record for rebounds in a single game with 22. He also added 20 points and 5 assists.”
“There were a lot of guys who made huge contributions,” Pieper said. “A couple guys off the bench I really thought were huge in us getting this win. Jordan Bush (1 FG, 1 3pt, 3 FT, 3 Ast) played great on defense and hit two big free throws at the end of the second overtime to get us tied and force the third overtime.”
“Michael McRae (6 FG, 1 FT, 1 Ast) had his best game of his career,” Pieper said. “He had his first career double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He played aggressive and confident all night.”
And “Bradyn Pieper (7 FG, 6 3pt, 1 FT, 2 Ast) had a big night for us, as well. He was feeling it from the outside and made a career high 6 three-pointers and had a career high 21 points to lead the way for us in scoring.”
“It was a very nice win,” Coach Pieper said. “I was very impressed how the guys handled the pressure of a triple overtime game. We didn’t flinch, and winning games like this go a long ways once conference play starts up again and come playoffs. This Dells team is a very good team. Earlier in the year, they were ranked in the top ten in the state.”
“We have two more non-conference games this week before we head back into the conference games. We have a chance to go on a little run here if we can stay focused and bring the 3 E’s [“The 3 E’s: Energy – Effort – Execute”] for the entire game,” he said.
Merrill 79 @ Wisconsin Dells 78
On Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, the Merrill Varsity Boys Basketball Team won their neutral conference game against Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln. While game details and coach commentary weren’t available for this one, Merrill brought home another win, ending the game with a seven-point lead over Wisconsin Rapids.
Merrill 74 @ Wisconsin Rapids 67
On Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, Merrill played Stevens Point Area High School (SPASH) in a home game.
“It was nice to be home again finally after playing four in a row on the road, and the atmosphere was great again like it was for the Lakeland game. We have great fans,” Coach Pieper said.
“We played really well for the most part, especially in the second half. We led them in all the stats except for points off of turnovers – that is what cost us,” he said. “They outscored us by 10 in that category. If we take care of the ball a little better, I think the outcome could have been in our favor.” As it turned out, the Bluejay Boys lost by eight points.
Still, “SPASH is the favorite in our conference, and in the second half we showed we can play with them and anyone in our conference when we bring the 3 E’s consistently. Now we need to put an entire game together and see where that leaves us,” Pieper said.
“I really liked Cayden Diels’ (1 FG, 2 Ast, 2 Stl) effort tonight. He was really good on the defensive side tonight, however, he had a couple iffy calls against him that had him battling foul trouble much of the night.”
Predictably, “Bailey Turenne (7 FG, 5 3pt, 3 FT, 4 Ast) was his typical consistent self, as he led us in scoring and rebounding again. He played really well and didn’t come out the entire game,” Coach said.
“It was nice to see Bradyn Pieper (4 FG, 3 3pt, 4 FT, 4 Ast) get his shot going again. He struggled the last couple of games, and spent about five hours at Riverside shooting on Thursday when we didn’t have school, so it was nice to see him get going again,” he said. Bradyn put up 15 total points.
“Troy Mootz (4 FG, 1 3pt, 4 FT, 1 Ast) was our ignitor again, as he came out aggressive and got us going early on. He’s been very consistent for us all year, and he will continue to get better each game. His work ethic is off the charts.”
SPASH 71 @ Merrill 63
Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, took the Merrill Boys to Antigo where the Bluejays took on the Red Robins and brought home a win, ending the non-conference game with a 38 point lead. Final score: 68-30.
“This was a much needed get-right game,” Coach Pieper said. “We executed much better from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I really liked our energy on defense, Antigo could never get settled into anything all night.”
“I think the guys saw firsthand tonight how important defense is. We didn’t shoot well at all in the first half. We were settling for outside shots instead of attacking their zone; however, we still led 33-9 at the half because of our defense. We created turnovers and converted easy opportunities off of those turnovers. The guys got to see you can struggle on offense and still be fine if you have the energy needed on defense.”
“I thought Michael McRae (2 FG, 1 FT, 1 Ast, 2 Stl) was awesome tonight. Looking at the box score, his numbers may not jump off the page; however, his energy and his play was awesome. I told him after the game that was the best I’ve seen him play; he was very aggressive all night on both ends.”
“Bailey (Turenne) was awesome again; he had a very impressive line, 27 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. He played limited minutes, as well, due to the lead we had and because McRae earned extended playing time because of how well he played.”
The other leader on the board was Troy Mootz (6 FG, 3 3pt, 1 FT, 2 Stl) with 16 points, followed by Bradyn Pieper (2 FG, 1 3pt, 2 FT, 3 Ast, 1 Stl) and Cory Gigl (2 FG, 3 FT, 2 Ast) putting up 7 points each.
Merrill 68 @ Antigo 30
On Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, the Bluejays played the Tigers at Marshfield and came away with a loss.
“Playing at Marshfield is never easy – the lighting, the crowd being so far away from the court – it’s just all in all a tough place to play,” Coach Pieper said. “And when you add to it that this Marshfield team is very solid and very balanced, it can make things tough.”
“I thought we played very well for the first 14 or 15 minutes of the first half,” he said. “We were not getting shots to fall, but our defense was locked in and keeping us in the game; however, we didn’t execute as well to close the half and allowed them to go on a 10-2 run to put us down double digits at the half.”
That unfortunately set the pace for the game.
“We talk a lot about how important the first three minutes of each half is and how important the final three minutes of each half are,” Pieper said. “Tonight we didn’t finish the first half well, and we didn’t start the second half well either and allowed them to go on another quick run which put us down 18, and we couldn’t get any momentum in the second half.”
On the game highlight side: Bailey Turenne (8 FG, 1 3pt, 3 FT, 1 Ast, 2 Stl) put up 20 points for the Bluejays.
“Bailey had a very nice game for us, he was very aggressive on the boards, especially on the offensive side where he pulled down 6 offensive rebounds, and on a night when the ball isn’t going in those offensive put backs are even more important,” Pieper said.
Troy Mootz (4 FG, 2 3pt, 3 FT, 2 Stl) also put up 13 game points for Merrill.
Merrill 42 @ Marshfield 60