By Brian Kalish
January 8, 2019
Wausau– If members of the SPASH boys basketball team were to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night after their game with Wausau East on Tuesday, no one could really blame them.
After enduring an absolutely nightmarish second half that saw a 20-point SPASH lead completely evaporate, the Panthers were able to exhale only after East senior Ryan LaCerte’s three point attempt– which would have tied the game– rimmed out as time expired, allowing the visiting team to escape with a 68-65 win.
“I thought it was in,” said East coach Paul Dimka of LaCerte’s last second shot. “I thought it was good. I thought it was going to give us a chance to get to overtime.”
Credit East for making a game out of it after SPASH was in complete control in the first half. The Panthers raced out to a 40-22 lead.
Adam Willoughby ignited the Panthers’ offensive attack.
Willoughby was white hot from three point range, going 6-6 from beyond the arc in the first half alone. He hit a total of eight three pointers in the game and finished with 28 points to lead all scorers.
“I’m going to say that six of his three pointers were contested,” said Dimka. “He was shooting it. The first half he just couldn’t miss.”
“He definitely can shoot it when his confidence is there,” said SPASH coach Jon Krull. “He had a game up in Antigo this year with nine threes. So we know he can shoot it.”
In addition to Willoughby’s hot shooting, SPASH was doing just about everything else right in the first half as well.
It was a complete reversal of fortunes in the second half.
As East began to chip away at SPASH’s lead– buoyed by the play of Ryan LaCerte and Gabe Krueger– the Panthers became more tentative. East’s defensive pressure further forced SPASH off balance.
Krueger led the Lumberjacks with 22 points, while LaCerte added 16.
A LaCerte three pointer cut SPASH’s lead to 62-59 with 1:40 to go, and, less than a minute later, a Jack Kane three point play cut SPASH’s lead to just two point at 64-62.
Finally, with 9.1 seconds remaining, Trey Buchberger was inexplicably fouled on a three point attempt, made all of those free throws and got the Lumberjacks within one point at 65-66.
But that’s as close as the Jacks would get.
“We’ve got a lot to learn from this,” said Krull. “It’s a game of 36 minutes, not a game of 18 minutes. We had a pretty good 18 minutes, but you’ve got to follow that up with 18 more.”
East, who has now lost three in a row, has dropped a couple of heartbreakers to Valley opponents, but still has time to turn things around.
“If you’re going to have a skid, you’d rather have it in the middle of the season than toward the end,” Dimka said. “You want to be playing your best ball toward tournament time. So we’re going to get after it tomorrow. They’re good kids, highly coachable. We’ll work at getting better.”
SPASH Scoring: Blair 16, Johnson 3, Beyer 3, Klish 2, Eron 6, Vollendorf 10, Willoughby 28
East Scoring: Kane 6, Buchberger 7, Meyer 2, LaCerte16, Caley 2, Kronberger 10, Krueger 22