By Scott Williams
For Zaleski Sports
STEVENS POINT – Nick Hartman and Tim Tippel came out with a hot hand from deep for Stevens Point Pacelli in its WIAA Division 4 boys basketball regional opener Tuesday night.
When the shots weren’t falling from the perimeter, Elliot Parks and Wes Peplinski spent most of the night cleaning up the glass and either scoring on put-backs or at the free throw line.
All those pieces added up to a 71-52 win over Colby at the Student Activities Center at Pacelli High School, and will need to come together and then some if the Cardinals want to keep their season alive past Friday night.
Pacelli (12-11) can now turn its full attention to a matchup with second-ranked and unbeaten Stratford (21-0) in a D-4 regional semifinal Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Stratford.
“You want to play in big games and you have to beat good teams anyway to move on,” said Peplinski, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half. “(Stratford) is a good team, but we’ll be ready.”
One facet the Cardinals will have to clean up if they want to have any chance of pulling off the upset Friday is turnovers.
Colby (9-13) pressed them all over the court from the opening tip. For extended stretches, Pacelli experienced a rash of turnovers – 24 in all.
Don’t think the struggles taking care of the basketball weren’t noted by the Stratford coaches in attendance for the regional opener.
“That’s the first thing we talked about in the locker room. We know (the turnovers) will not be acceptable on Friday,” Pacelli coach John Schurk said. “We’ve seen press all year long and have not had any issues hardly with the press at all. I don’t know what happened tonight. We had a hard time handling the ball. It was one of those nights where we weren’t good enough (with the ball).”
Pacelli experienced no such issues knocking down deep shots, especially early in the game.
Hartman, who finished with a game-high 19 points to pace three players in double figures, set the tone by draining three consecutive 3-pointers in the opening minutes.
Tippel came off the bench and followed the lead of Hartman. The senior guard connected on three of four attempts from behind the arc as soon as he entered the game.
The hot shooting helped the Cardinals build a 41-26 cushion at the break.
Another hot start would come in handy against a much taller Stratford team. The length of the Tigers’ Ben Barten and Vaughn Breit could make life tough on Parks and Peplinski inside.
“We have some shooters on this team and we know if we get those guys rolling, we’re hard to beat,” Schurk said. “I told Nick Hartman (in practice Monday) that when you have a big night we don’t lose. He looked at me and said ‘I know.’”
Parks chipped in with 17 points for the Cardinals. The 6-foot-5 senior center dominated on the offensive glass against the much smaller Hornets.
The task will be much different against the bulk of Barten and the athleticism and length of the 6-foot-6 Breit.
Pacelli ran into the Tigers last season and held their own. The game was in single digits until the closing minutes of an 11-point Stratford win.
There was a different cast for that game, but the goal is the same for the Cardinals. Find a way to pull off a monumental upset and keep their season alive.
“Stratford is the second-ranked team for a reason,” the Pacelli coach said. “We played them well last year. We’re confident going in that we’re going to make it a ball game at least. If you give yourself a chance at the end of the game, you never know what can happen.”
Noah Robida had 13 points and Harley Schmelzer added 10 for Colby, which ends the season with a 9-13 record.
Cardinals 71, Hornets 52
Colby 26 26 - 52
Pacelli 41 30 - 71
COLBY (52): Roman Schmitt 4, Gaving Lopez 5, Noah Robida 13, Brent Jeske 6, Richard Streveler 4, Harley Schmelzer 10, Isaac Karl 3, Mason Schmutzler 3, Brandon Voelker 4. Record: 9-13.
PACELLI (71): Mason Schlagenhaft 2, Wes Peplinski 17, Nick Hartman 19, Elliot Parks 17, Jacon Schroeder 5, Tim Tippel 9, Kaydin Mayek 2. Record: 12-11.