By Robert Whitmire
Twenty-six teams have stepped on the floor with the SPASH Panthers boys basketball team this season and all have been well-schooled in a smothering style of defense, high powered offense and solid team basketball from one end of the bench to the other.
Saturday was no exception as SPASH dispatched the Appleton West Terrors in routine fashion, 86-49, to continue its roll on to the WIAA state tournament. The Panthers (26-0) will take the floor at the Kohl Center in Madison on Friday, March 18th at 8:15 PM to face Sheboygan North (24-2) in a WIAA Division I semi-final game.
The winner will face either Muskego (21-4) or Milwaukee Marquette (23-3) for the state title Saturday night.
SPASH currently ranks number one in the state polls and seventh in the nation, and returns to Madison as the defending Division one state champion after defeating Germantown 67-51 in the 2015 title game. The Panthers have won 35 straight games dating back to last season.
“It’s exciting making back-to-back trips to state and always a fun trip to Madison – bus rides, team meals and just spending time together,” said senior Ted Kearney. “Our main goal is to come home on top and win another state championship. I think on the big stage our team will play well. We have had experience on the court before.”
Senior Trev Anderson, a UW-Green Bay recruit, enters Friday night’s game leading the Panthers in scoring averaging 24.8 points per game including 58 percent from beyond the three-point arc to lead the Wisconsin Valley Conference.
Anderson lit up the board with 25 points, hitting eight of 13 shots and three of six from three-point range in the 2015 championship game.
Senior Sam Hauser — a Marquette University recruit — topped the conference in rebounding averaging 8.8 per game and finished the season as the WVC’s second leading scorer (19.3 ppg).
Hauser blitzed the basket with 25 points including 4 of 5 from beyond the three-point arc and hauled down 10 rebounds in last year’s title tilt.
Any team that thinks they’ve figured out how to stop Anderson or the Hauser boys — Sam and Joey — may very well have to contend with sophomore Drew Blair who has proven his ability to come off the bench and light up the board from the outside. The 6’2” guard left the Terrors shaking their heads as he rang up 17 points in the first half including five three-pointers.
Also waiting in the wings are seniors Jamison Kryshak, Jake Hofmeister and Mack Journell, all having contributed solid minutes during the course of the season.
“Our team has been having a great year and I think we are playing some of our best basketball right now,” said Panther coach Scott Anderson. “We hope to keep peaking and want to play our best game Friday night. I think we have to use our experience to our advantage…we have a number of kids that have played in the Kohl Center before and can lean on those experiences from last year.”
“Sheboygan North is a very good team,” he added. “They are very well-coached and will be a great challenge. They are a talented team with good size and have some kids that can shoot it from the 3 point line. They will be a good challenge for our defense.”
SPASH Director of Athletics Mike Blair has announced plans for a Sunday welcome home for the team.
“If we get through to the championship game on Saturday – win or lose – we’d like to invite the community and fans to the SPASH Fieldhouse at 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon for a welcome home ceremony,” Blair said.