By Robert Whitmire
The SPASH boys basketball team will open WIAA tournament play Friday night as the No. 2 seed in the Marshfield Sectional.
The Panthers will host the Superior Spartans who come into the bracket as the No. 15 seed. Game time at the SPASH Fieldhouse is scheduled for 7 PM.
SPASH enters the game with an 18 – 4 record having won 51 consecutive Wisconsin Valley Conference games. They defeated Wausau West 69 – 55 to cap their regular season schedule.
The Spartans, members of the Lake Superior Conference bring a 9 – 13 overall record to the fieldhouse.
Leading the Spartan attack are senior guard Justin Reinkall with a 15.6 points per game average. Senior guard Aaron O’Shaughessy is averaging 12.5 ppg.
“We have played Superior in the sectionals the last two years,” said Panther Coach Scott Anderson. “They have a very good program and Coach Smith does a really nice job of always having them ready to play. We will have to play well and be ready to earn anything we get Friday and for the rest of the season for that matter. The postseason is a one and done deal and you have to give your very best every chance you get to play.”
The Panthers enter the game hitting 48 percent from the field, including 40 percent form beyond the 3-point arc. They are shooting 76 percent from the charity stripe.
“We are about as healthy as we have been all year,” Anderson said. “I think the guys are ready to make a push in the Tourney. We will work hard this week to be ready to play our best basketball of the season….we feel like our best game is still out there.”
Leading the team in scoring are three Panthers averaging double figures from the floor.
Junior forward Joey Hauser is lighting up the board with a 23.6 per game average. Hauser is pulling down 10 rebounds per game and dishing out 5.4 assists. Hauser sat out the first 11 games of the season with an injury.
Junior Drew Blair has been blistering the net shooting 46 percent from 3-point land and sports a 19 ppg average. Blair currently ranks third in the WIAA three-point challenge having dropped in 51 of 110 from downtown.
Senior guard Beau Rosenthal rings up an average of 12.4 points per game.
“I feel like if we play well and up to our capabilities we will have a great chance at having favorable results,” Anderson said.
The winner of Friday night’s game will play Saturday night against the winner of the Chippewa Falls – Eau Claire Memorial game. Falls sits as the No. 7 seed in the bracket; Memorial comes in as the No. 10 seed. Saturday’s game will be played at the higher seed.
The Panthers, currently ranked No. 6 in the state, defeated Eau Claire Memorial 61 – 50 on Dec. 2 at the SPASH Fieldhouse.