Spartan boys advance to regional finalWhen the ball won’t drop, good basketball teams find other ways to win. Friday night in Superior, the Spartan boys turned to their stingy defense and the last-minute heroics of senior Erick Tunell to pull off the 33-32 victory over Wausau West.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
When the ball won’t drop, good basketball teams find other ways to win.
Friday night in Superior, the Spartan boys turned to their stingy defense and the last-minute heroics of senior Erick Tunell to pull off the 33-32 victory over Wausau West.
“I thought our defense tonight was spectacular,” said Dave Kontny, head coach of the Spartans. “We only scored 33, but we only gave up 32.”
Tunell, Superior’s leading scorer, hit what turned out to be the winning shot with 32 seconds left to play. He was held scoreless until the last two minutes of the game, but in those two final two minutes Tunell went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Superior the lead.
Superior now advances to the WIAA Division 1 regional finals against Eau Claire Memorial, which defeated Eau Claire North 45-36 Friday. The Spartans host ECM at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“I think it will be a higher scoring game; they’re a fast-paced team,” Tunell said. “Hopefully we come a little more ready than we did tonight, but it’s nice to get that first win under our belt.”
Superior struggled all night, missing shots in the paint and open looks from the perimeter. The only thing that kept the Spartans in the game was defense.
Superior held Wausau West to six points in the first quarter and five in the second to go into halftime leading 16-11.
In the third quarter, Superior came away with steals on the Warriors’ first two possessions and maintained a five-point lead through the midway point of the quarter. Superior followed with three straight traveling calls to open up an opportunity for Wausau West to close the gap to 22-21 heading into the final quarter.
With 3:27 left to play, Wausau West took the lead for the first time since the end of the third quarter when Jordan Huehnerfuss took the ball baseline for a layup.
The Warriors then took their largest lead of the night with 3:05 remaining on a three-point play by Taylor Penn. Penn drove inside for a layup and drew contact to get to the free-throw line. The extra shot was good and gave the Warriors a 28-24 lead.
Derek Kontny cut the lead in half when he put in a lob on an inbounds play with 2:48 to go, but Wausau West answered 18 seconds later to put the lead back to four, 30-26.
With 1:37 on the clock, Tunell was fouled and made the first of his four free throws. His second pair of free throws came with 1:04 left to play and put Superior within reach, 32-30.
“I knew that we had to do something — turn up the heat and hope for a turnover — and that’s what we did,” Dave Kontny said.
Superior trapped Wausau West along the sideline and forced a travel on the Warriors’ next possession.
Tunell then set up behind a nice screen from Bryan Sanders and took a shot from the left corner to give Superior a 33-32 lead with 32 seconds remaining.
“They ran a 2-3 zone, and you can get that shot in the corner a lot if they’re not expecting it,” Tunell said. “We hadn’t run that play the whole game, so I put up three fingers to the coach and he said sure; so we decided to run it and see if it worked out.”
Wausau West had a chance to inbound the ball under its own basket with 16 seconds left, but Derek Kontny tipped the first two pass attempts out of bounds. When the Warriors finally got the ball in play, Superior swarmed them to get an over and back call, and the Spartans dribbled out the final 2.4 seconds to preserve the 33-32 victory.
“You know what the difference was tonight? Seniors,” Dave Kontny said. “I told them on the bench in the last timeout before Erick hit the shot, ‘You have to believe. If you don’t believe, it’s not going to happen. You have to believe this is your season.’ And they all had a look in their eyes like, we’re going to come back and we’re going to win.”
Superior 11 5 6 11 — 33
Wausau West 6 5 10 11 — 32
Superior — Jordan Hughes 8, Erick Tunell 7, Nick Mehlum 7, Bryan Sanders 4, Ben Erickson 4, Derek Kontny 3.
Wausau West — Taylor Penn 11, Brad Utegaard 9, Andy Yang 4, Andrew Fischer 2, Jordan Huehnerfuss 2, Jacob Raeder 2, Tyler Schertz 2.