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Auburndale senior guard Cooper Weinfurter puts up a shot during the Apaches’ win over Neillsville on Saturday night at Auburndale HIgh School. (Photo by Steve Pilz/For Zaleski Sports)

By Steve Pilz For Zaleski Sports

AUBURNDALE – A couple of Central Wisconsin boys basketball powerhouses, with just one loss between them, took the court at Auburndale’s annual holiday tournament on Saturday night, and they didn’t disappoint.

In the end, the hometown Apaches dropped Neillsville 67-60 to capture the tournament title and run their record to a perfect 9-0 this season. Neillsville falls to 7-2.

The game’s last minute made the outcome anyone’s guess.

Neillsville’s Alex King, in the midst of a 15-point second half, went to the line with 1:23 left in the game. When he went back to play defense, after making both foul shots, the Warriors had their very first lead of the game at 60-59.

A lesser team may have panicked, but the experienced Apaches seemed to spy the landscape before settling on a 3-point attempt from Fletcher Raab, who had already made five 3s on the night. This one missed the mark but the ever-present Hunter Wright was Johnny-on-the-spot, grabbing the board and putting it up and in to take the lead right back.

The Warriors wasted little time getting it to their hot hand King, who hoisted an off the mark three that was easily rebounded by Auburndale. In their rush to get the ball, Neillsville didn’t get back and Cooper Weinfurter made them pay with a break away lay-up on the other end to make it 63-60 with 26 seconds remaining.

King was fouled but missed the front end of the bonus, and Auburndale’s Cody Trowbridge rebounded and was fouled. The senior forward made both free throws to extend the Apaches’ lead to 65-60. After another Neillsville miss, Wright made another lay-in to finish with 20 points and cap off the victory for Auburndale.

“I thought we forced them into some tough shots,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “But they’re tough shot makers. (Braden) Trunkel and King are really good at making difficult shots. I didn’t think our defense was that much different than the first half. It’s just that their shots went down.”

Neither team shot well in the first half with Auburndale going 9-for-31 from the field but did make six 3-pointers on 20 attempts. Neillsville was just 6-for-24 and 1-for-10 on 3s, and the Apaches led 24-16 at the break.

That changed in a hurry for both teams, most notably Neillsville. Trunkel had 13 points in the second half after a scoreless first half on the strength of three 3s, and freshman Andrew Brown put up 10, all in the second half, with a pair of 3-pointers. King scored 15 of his game-high 19 in the half and the Apaches were knocked back on their heels, however, briefly.

“Our offense picked up too,” Chad Weinfurter said. “Cooper (Weinfurter) shot better in the second half than he did in the first half and Hunter (Wright) made some plays, especially from the high post to find shooters. There was a little more rhythm in the second half for both teams.

“Chemistry came through for us in the end. We were tough and we trusted each other and made the right plays. Guys stepped up and that’s what you need.”

Wright’s 20 points led the Apaches. Weinfurter scored 18. King’s 19 led the Warriors. Josiah Katcher had 13, as did Trunkel. Brown finished with 10.

Apaches 67, Warriors 60 Neillsville 16 44 – 60 Auburndale 24 43 – 67 NEILLSVILLE (60): Braden Trunkel 4 2-2 13, Alex King 7 4-7 19, Andrew Brown 4 0-0 10, Monte Diestler 2 0-0 5, Josiah Katcher 6 1-1 13. FG: 22-48. 3-pointers 7-22 (Trunkel 3, Brown 2, Diestler, King). FT: 7-10. Turnovers 7. Fouled out: none. Record: 7-2. AUBURNDALE (67): Cooper Weinfurter 6 2-2 18, Kaden Hoffman 1 2-2 4, Hunter Wright 7 4-7 20, Fletcher Raab 5 0-0 15, Cody Trowbridge 2 2-2 6, Dylan Paun 2 0-3 4. FG: 23-53. 3-Pointers: 11-32 (Raab 5, Weinfurter 4, Wright 2). FT: 10-16. Turnovers: 11. Fouled out: none. Record: 9-0.

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