Feb. 13, 2020
WESTON– When glancing over the scorebook from Thursday night’s Wisconsin Valley Conference contest between D.C. Everest and SPASH, the stat lines for Everest seniors Bryan Halambeck and Ethan Ostrowski don’t exactly jump off the page.
However, Halambeck and Ostrowski combined to make one of the biggest plays for the Evergreens all night– and arguably one of the biggest plays of the season– to secure a hard-fought 70-65 victory over their rivals to the south.
With SPASH down 66-62 with just 15.2 seconds left to go, the Panthers set up to inbound the ball from beneath their own basket.
When the ball was passed into play, Ostrowski intercepted it at the top of the key and adroitly handed it off to Halambeck, who was fouled.
Halambeck drilled both free throws to extend the Evergreens’ lead to 68-62 and effectively hand Everest the victory.
“I was at the top of the key waiting for the pass and it came in to me,” Ostrowski said. “And I got it and that’s what kind of sealed the game when Bryan hit those two free throws.”
“I mean I knew they were going to be coming at me hard for the foul and I’m confident in my free throw shooting, so I wasn’t going to pass it up,” Halambeck said.
It was heady play from two of the Evergreens’ elder statesmen, and one that put Everest in excellent position to claim the conference title.
With two games left to go in the Valley schedule, Everest stands alone at the top of the standings with a 8-2 record. The Evergreens will face Wisconsin Rapids and Merrill, respectively, to close out the season.
Meanwhile, SPASH falls to 6-3 and squandered an opportunity to muscle their way into first place.
The theme of the night for the Panthers was inconsistency.
SPASH struggled with Everest’s full court press, and every time it seemed like the Panthers were poised to take control of the game, a turnover, rushed shot or defensive miscue thwarted their rally.
“I mean at times I thought we (handled the press), but then at times we went into panic mode and got more passive than in attack mode,” said SPASH coach Jon Krull. “We just weren’t consistent enough in that and a lot of different areas defensively and offensively.”
SPASH was led by Evan Vollendorf’s 23 points. Nate Streveler added 14 and Austin Beyer also scored 14 points.
Meanwhile, the Evergreens featured a balanced attack with five players breaking into double figures.
Alec Stuedemann led the way with 15 points, while Cade Sievertson netted 13. Halambeck scored 10 points and Ostrowski had 13.
Colton Hall had 11 points for the Evergreens.
Everest knew it was going to have its hands full trying to keep the lid on SPASH’s potent offense. Their press was highly effective, as was their half court defense.
“Last game they really torched us because we didn’t play the best defense,” said Halambeck, referring to the Evergreens’ clash with SPASH earlier this season. “We knew we really had to focus on that coming in and in practice we were focusing on defense and changing defenses when necessary and it worked.”
Ultimately, Everest was able to make plays down the stretch– free throws in particular– to close out the game.
Clinging to a three point lead at 49-46 with 5:46 to go, Hall converted a three point play to extend the Evergreens’ lead.
Again up by three points at 62-59 with a minute on the clock, Ostrowski drilled two free throws to keep SPASH at bay.
Halambeck thwarted yet another SPASH rally with just 26 seconds to go, turning a two point Evergreens lead into a four point advantage at 66-62.
And then came the huge steal by Ostrowski and free throws by Halambeck to put the contest on ice.
While this victory is as sweet as any they’ve experienced so far this season, the Evergreens know there’s still work to be done.
“We’ve still got Rapids and Merrill ahead of us,” Halambeck said. “Both of those teams aren’t any slouch. We’ve got to prepare for them and win and get our conference championship.”
SPASH 30 35 65
EVEREST 35 35 70
SPASH: Jacobs 7, Beyer 14, Hyer 4, Vollendorf 23, Pelky 3, Streveler 14
EVEREST: Sivertson 13, Stuedemann 15, Halambeck 10, Ostrowski 13, Edwards 6, Hall 11, Ebersold 2