Merrill Boys sink a three-point basket at the buzzer to win against Shawano in season opener
BY TINA L. SCOTT
On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, the Merrill Varsity Boys Basketball Team played their season opener at Shawano. They faced a challenging opponent but came away with an exciting win right at the buzzer. It was a huge way to kick off their season.
“With this being our first game of the season and Shawano’s third game and their home opener, I knew it would be a tough test for us, I knew we would have to withstand a run or two from Shawano as we got our early season legs under us, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Troy Pieper, Merrill Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach. “Shawano came out with more controlled energy, while we came out with the adrenaline a little too amped up. We got down 10 in the first half, but the final few minutes of the half we sort of settled in and cut the deficit down to just 5 at the half.” At halftime, the score was Shawano 36 – Merrill 31.
“At halftime we made a few adjustments, as their star player, Logan Sipple, was dictating the game in the first half,” Pieper said, “so we packed it in a bit and went to a 2-3 zone and were very aware of where #2 (Sipple) was at all times”.
“For not really implementing much of the 2-3 zone this early in the season, besides sort of as a scout defense expecting it from time to time from Shawano, I was very impressed with how the team did and how we got some deflections, but most impressed with how we rebounded in the second half for the most part,” he said.
“The second half went back and forth pretty much the entire half; we were up one and they had the ball and called a timeout. I figured they would be drawing up a play against our zone, and everyone in the building knew Sipple would be taking the last shot, so we decided to go Box and 1, and deny Sipple at all cost. Well, he was able to get open, and then I knew we were in a bind, because he loves going baseline, and we were not going to be in great help position. He got the bucket to put them up 1 with 5 seconds left.”
“We called a timeout,” Pieper said, “and the guys executed almost flawlessly, and Carter Baade drew a triple team and hit EJ Weix for the game winning 3 at the buzzer. It was a perfect way to start the season, and I couldn’t be more proud of each and every player tonight!”
“We’ve been depleted with the loss of a handful of players for one reason or another, and for the guys to not flinch, not panic, and not let the moment be too big was the most impressive takeaway from tonight,” he said.
“We had great balance tonight, EJ (Weix) was fantastic all night and hit the game winner; he led us 24. Sam Reimann sort of carried us in the first half and continued his great play in the second half and finished with 17. Carter (Baade) might have been the most impressive; in the first half, he had to run to the locker room because he was feeling sick, and he came back and was awesome, played the entire second half, and his stat line was that of a true point guard. He did a little of everything with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists; the best part of the stat lines for these 3 is their shooting percentages. They made extra passes, no one forced anything, all 3 shot very well from the field tonight,” Pieper said.
“So many guys stepped up. It was truly a team win,” he said. “Carson Woellner led us in rebounding with 7 and his energy is always off the charts, and he dinged up his knee a little early in the game but refused to let that hold him back. Jacob Schmeltzer, who hasn’t played since his Freshman year due to a knee injury last year, I thought played really well and under control. Once the nerves settled for him, he hit a big 3 in the second half that gave us a lead. He battled all night.”
“The bench play was impressive too; each guy contributed,” Pieper said. “I loved Aidan Houghton’s energy on defense; he played controlled and handled the most minutes off the bench. Brody Lange, who has focused on football the past couple years, decided to give Basketball a shot again this year, and we are thankful he did. He’s a strong athletic kid who will do anything that is asked of him, and once the nerves settled down for him, he gave us great minutes tonight, as well. Ondre Houghton, who has been dealing with a back issue lately, hasn’t had a lot of consistent practice minutes of late, but he came in and hit a big 3 in the second half for us, and he always brings it on the defensive end. And Tyson Ott, a Freshman who got good minutes and didn’t look like a Freshman out there, he played aggressive and wasn’t scared of the moment; he will just continue to get better and better each game. I was impressed with the minutes he gave us tonight as well.”
“This was truly a team win top to bottom,” Pieper said. “Even the guys who were unable to play were into the game and giving us energy from the bench; the JV and JV2 players were giving us a good road student section, as well; and the JV team gave us some energy before the game, too, as they also won their game on a 3 point buzzer beater!”
Merrill 70 @ Shawano 68