Spartans heading back to sectionalsSuperior faces D.C. Everest after home wins over Wausau West and Eau Claire Memorial
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Superior High School boys basketball team is headed back to the sectional tournament for the fifth time in seven years. Superior advanced to the sectional tournament in 2007 and advanced three straight years from 2009 to 2011.
“We’re looking forward to going back to the sectional. We took a year off,” said Dave Kontny, head coach of the Spartans.
The Spartans (20-3) qualified with a 52-42 win over Eau Claire Memorial Saturday night in Superior.
Superior plays D.C. Everest in Marshfield at 7 p.m. Thursday in the sectional semifinals. The winner advances to the sectional final at 2 p.m. Saturday in Stevens Point.
D.C. Everest (17-7) defeated Marshfield 45-42 Saturday. Leading scorers for the Evergreens are Jared Gjertson, a 6-foot-8 center, and Zach Finnegan. D.C. Everest trailed by 10 at halftime Saturday before outscoring Marshfield 33-20 in the second half to win.
Superior’s victory Saturday followed a narrow win over Wausau West in Friday’s regional semifinal. The Spartans scored only 16 points in the first half of that game and finished with a 33-32 victory.
“We definitely thought we couldn’t have shot any worse (Friday) night,” said senior Ben Erickson. “We kind of had a chip on our shoulder. We’re the No. 1 seed, and we had to play up to it. All of us guys kind of got that intensity — we win or we go home. That’s what stayed with us, and we played as a team.”
Superior started out fast against ECM, giving up a reverse layup on the Old Abes’ first possession and then scoring the next 10 points.
The Spartans extended their lead to 20-9 by 4:25 in the second quarter, but ECM roared back with a 3-pointer from Ben Everhart and a dunk and layup from Daminiqus Ford. Superior led just 22-18 at halftime.
The score was tied four times in the second half, with the last coming at 39-39 with 4:21 to play. Erick Tunell put Superior in front with a layup 10 seconds later, and Derek Kontny made it 42-39 with a free throw. Another basket from Tunell and a driving layup from Erickson made it 46-39 with 2:26 to play, and ECM was then forced to foul. Four straight free throws put the Spartans’ lead at 50-39 with a minute to play, and Superior held on to win 52-42.
Tunell, who scored just seven points Friday night, led Superior with 18 points. Nick Mehlum added 12 points, including six key points in the third quarter.
“I’ve said it all year, these two guys tonight, two different guys tomorrow,” Dave Kontny said. “That’s the unique thing about this team. We’re as good as we’ve ever been defensively, if not the best; and we definitely have more weapons offensively because we can hurt you at all eight positions.”
Bryan Sanders and Erickson both finished with eight points, Jordan Hughes had four in the first half, and Derek Kontny and Carter Anderson added a free throw apiece.
“I told them that I wanted them to just relax and react tonight,” Dave Kontny said. “Not think, just react. And you could see it. It was beautiful.”
Superior’s fast reactions showed most on defense.
“When we came out to zone we really harassed them,” Erickson said. “For any team to have that harassment going through that whole game, it’s tough to play against.”
The Spartan boys turned to their defense and the last-minute heroics of Tunell on Friday night to pull off the 33-32 victory over Wausau West.
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.
“I thought our defense tonight was spectacular,” Dave Kontny said. “We only scored 33, but we only gave up 32.”
Superior struggled all night, missing shots in the paint and open looks from the perimeter; but defense kept the Spartans in the game.
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 maintained a five-point lead for the first four minutes, but Wausau West rallied to close the gap and briefly took the lead near the end of the third quarter.
The Warriors made another run in the fourth quarter and moved in front with 3:27 left to play when Jordan Huehnerfuss went baseline for a layup.
Wausau West then took its 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 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.”
“I went for the dagger with Erick,” Kontny said. “That’s the play I felt we could get the best look at, and Bryan Sanders is the key to that entire play. He screened the right guy, and Erick knocked down the shot when we needed it.”
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 16 6 13 17 — 52
ECM 9 9 9 15 — 42
Superior — Erick Tunell 18, Nick Mehlum 12, Ben Erickson 8, Bryan Sanders 8, Jordan Hughes 4, Derek Kontny 1, Carter Anderson 1.
ECM — Ben Everhart 12, Daminiqus Ford 9, Nick Uthe 7, Gianni Rossato 6, David Schnack 4, Alex Grant 2, Malek Lemke 2.
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.