By Steve Pilz For Zaleski Sports
AUBURNDALE – After splitting a pair of regular season games, Auburndale and Edgar found themselves matched up as the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, in their WIAA Division 4 boys basketball regional.
They had each dispatched lesser seeds on Friday and a close game was expected as they prepared to meet either Stratford or Neillsville in the sectional semifinal next Thursday at Wausau West.
What transpired was memorable for the Apaches.
The Apaches (20-4) will indeed play another Marawood South rival in Stratford (23-0) next Thursday in Wausau after dispatching Edgar 41-33 on Saturday night at Auburndale High School to capture the D-4 regional title.
Stratford (23-0) gained the sectional berth by dismantling an overmatched Neillsville squad, 71-36. The Tigers defeated Auburndale by double-digits in both conference matchups this season.
Edgar took an early lead against the Apaches and milked it for everything it was worth in the first half. Behind three 3-pointers by Austin Dahlke, the Wildcats ran out to a 15-8 lead at the 10-minute mark of the first half and let that simmer till about the five-minute mark when the next points were scored.
Secure with their lead, the Wildcats didn’t do anything in a hurry and took an 18-12 lead into the half on the strength of five 3-pointers.
Edgar pushed that lead to 12 in the second half before Hunter Wright got a lay-up at the 13:30 mark of the second half.
Schuyler Gilhausen hit a big three to cut it to seven at 12:26 forcing a timeout from Edgar coach Dave Huss. Auburndale came out of that timeout in a man-to-man defense with the visitors stuck at 24 points.
Cooper Weinfurter hit a pair of free throws to make it a five-point game and a seven-point run, but committed his fourth foul on the next trip down.
There couldn’t have been much of a decision for Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter to take the co-Marawood South player of the year out of the game at that point, and he did.
It was suddenly sink or swim for the Apaches and the lifeguards’s name was Hunter Wright.
Wright made an old fashion three-point play with a layup and a free throw to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 4.
After back-to-back offensive fouls, Wright slashed to the basket again to cut the lead to two with 6:20 remaining.
Dylan Paun hit two free throws to tie the game at 27 before Wright hit yet another driving layup to give the Apaches their first lead in forever at 29-27, which coincided with
Weinfurter’s re-entrance after sitting for more than five minutes.
Wright’s final act can only be described as a circus shot as he was looking to pass, got cut off in the lane and still kissed one off the glass from about 12 feet to add insult to the Wildcats’ injury making it 33-27 in favor of Auburndale.
“Our second half we really had to step it up,” Wright said. “We couldn’t get much going early on. We started slow in the second half. When we switched to man, it helped a lot. They were hitting three’s early. The man made them take tougher shots and that helped.”
Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter sung the praises of his squad and how they reacted after being down for much of the game.
“It was a combination of things,” Chad Weinfurter said. “Our kid’s resiliency was impressive. We could’ve folded when Cooper went out. I have a lot of confidence in these kids, but we were struggling so bad on offense with him in there. Kade Hoffman came in and he didn’t score but played well and all of a sudden we’re getting to the basket. Dylan Paun made some plays off the dribble. Defensively, we really rebounded well, limiting them to one shot. Schuyler Gilhausen did a great job on (Edgar’s top scorer) Drew (Guden).
“I thought our kids, our poise, was outstanding. I gotta give them a ton of credit. This senior group – great chemistry. The juniors they play with. They all get along great. It’s a fantastic feeling just for them, and I get to spend (he said with a smile) another week with them.”
With 2:20 remaining and a six-point deficit Edgar had a chance, but continued to rush 3-pointers and with Cooper Weinfurter back in the game, there were free throws to be shot.
Weinfurter obliged making seven of eight down the stretch.
When asked about the miss after 5 straight makes the senior guard said, “I let one slip away. After I missed that one, I had to make the rest of them or hear it from the head coach (his dad). Hunter stepped up big in the second half. Everybody stepped it up. It’s great to have a team like this where anybody can step up at any time. It was certainly a good switch to the man-to-man. We planned to go 2-3 (zone) and we did, but the man proved more effective.”
Wright finished with 14 points and Weinfurter had 12 for Auburndale. Dahlke led Edgar (18-6) with 14 points on the strength of four 3-pointers.
Apaches 41, Wildcats 33 Edgar 18 15 – 33 Auburndale 12 29 – 41 EDGAR (33): Caden Higgins 1 0-0 2, Drew Guden 1 3-4 6, Austin Dahlke 5 0-0 14, Konnor Wolf 1 1-2 3, Kaleb Hafferman 2 0-0 4, Kyle Brewster 1 1-2 4. FG: 10-45. FT: 5-8. 3-pointers: 6-26 (Dahlke 4, Guden 1, Brewster 1). Fouls: 20. Fouled out: Brewster. Record: 18-6. AUBURNDALE (41): Cooper Wienfurter 2 7-8 12, Kaden Hoffman 0 0-0 0, Hunter Wright 6 2-3 14, Fletcher Raab 2 0-1 6, Schuler Gilhausen 1 0-0 3, Cody Trowbridge 0 0-1 1, Dylan Paun 1 3-6 5. FG: 12-36. FT: 13-22. 3-pointers: 4-19 (Raab 2, Weinfurter 1, Gilhausen 1). Fouls: 12. Fouled out: none. Record: 20-4.
Steve Pilz writes for MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Zaleski Sports.