By Brian Kalish
Feb. 11, 2020
WAUSAU– After controlling play for most of the first half and building as much as a 13-point lead, Wausau West allowed the Green Bay East Red Devils to creep back into the game.
The Red Devils whittled the West lead to just three points heading into halftime.
One question seemed to hang in the air at the Wausau West Fieldhouse: Who wants it more?
The Warriors, much to the delight of the home crowd, provided an emphatic answer in the second half.
Perimeter sharpshooting from junior Max Helke, all around hustle from sophomore Amillion Buggs, and a nice one-two inside punch from seniors Mitchell Zahurones and Jacob Rapp, fueled second half domination and West came away with an impressive 56-46 win.
It was Wausau West’s first victory since Nov. 30, and halted a 15-game losing skid.
Needless to say, West’s players, fans and coaches alike were relieved to put that streak in the rearview mirror.
“We’re just excited, you know,” said West coach Nate Lemmens. “It gets to be a long season when you go on droughts like this and it’s been a tough road for a lot of different reasons. But our kids continue to battle, and so, celebrate it. Wins are wins and we don’t care how we get them. I’m just proud of these guys.”
There was plenty for the Warriors to be proud of.
For one, West’s offense displayed balance and poise, particularly in the second half.
The Warriors rode the hot hand of Helke, who led all scorers with 20 points. Helke drilled six from long distance, taking advantage of gaps in East’s zone defense.
“We were getting a lot of good looks,” Helke said. “My shot was going down tonight, and it’s great when it’s going like it’s supposed to.”
Proving that they aren’t a one-trick pony, the Warriors showed some swagger in the paint with Zahurones dishing off to Rapp becoming something of a broken record.
Rapp finished with 10 points.
East was clearly in a pickle defensively. Collapse on Zahurones and Rapp and they’d be exposed to the outside shooting of Helke. Chase around Helke on the outside, and open up the inside.
“We have some guys that can shoot it,” Lemmens said. “You’ve got Rapp and Amillion inside and then Mitchell’s a kid that can create for us. That’s something that we need because Max and those guys, they’re going to get shots off of penetration and kick outs.”
As West’s offense found its groove, East struggled mightily from the floor. The Red Devils converted just one field goal in a span of more than eight minutes to open the second half.
They finally hit some shots with time winding down, but it was too little too late.
The win is West’s third on the season and they will resume play against Wisconsin Valley Conference opponent Marshfield next week.
“I’m really glad with how we stuck together tonight,” said Lemmens. “We’ve played really well the last three weeks and it doesn’t always show up in the scorebook. But just getting that consistency and taking care of the basketball and then making shots and plays when we need to, that’s what we need to keep getting better at.”
Green Bay East 21 25 46
Wausau West 24 32 56
EAST: Felix 4, Campbell 6, Aoki 8, Burns 3, Gillespie 2, Sicairos 2, Sweeney 12, Schultz 2, Flowers 7
WEST: Zahurones 2, Buggs 5, Deloye 11, Stangel 5, Rapp 10, Helke 20, Matteson 3