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Stratford's Cade Bruesewitz shoots a free throw during the second half of the Tigers' WIAA Division 4 regional final win over Marathon on Saturday at Stratford High School. (Photo by Steve Pilz/For Zaleski Sports)

By Steve Pilz

For Zaleski Sports

STRATFORD - The two best teams, Marathon and Stratford, from arguably the best small school conference in North Central Wisconsin, the Marawood South, met for a third time this season Saturday night in a WIAA Division 4 regional final at Stratford High School.

And while Marathon took the Marawood Sorth title this season defeating Stratford both times they met, it was the Tigers (22-4) this time, leading practically start to finish (the Raiders scored the first basket of the game) to down the visitors 56-45 and advance to Thursday’s sectional semifinal vs. undefeated Iola-Scandinavia (26-0) at a site to be determined.

In what was sure to be a close game, the teams didn’t disappoint, trading baskets to make it 10-10 after the first six minutes.

Then the Tigers started to assert themselves, going up by seven at 22-15 with a minute remaining in the half. Junior guard Braeden Schueller drilled a 3-pointer with two seconds left to make it 25-15 at intermission.

The Raiders (21-5) trimmed the lead to nine a couple times, but the teams generally traded baskets until about the six-minute mark, which coincided with Marathon’s 6-foot-8 sophomore Grant Warren making 3 of 5 shots from point-blank range, the finale coming on a half-court steal resulting in a thunderous dunk. Marathon’s next trip brought them almost all the way back, cutting the lead to four at 42-38.

A steal by Cade Bruesewitz and a break-out pass to Cam Daul for a lay-up stopped the bleeding and made it 44-38. Bruesewitz’s 3-pointer on the Tigers’ next trip proved to be the dagger at 47-38 with 3:14 to play. The Raiders would get no closer.

“It was a good team effort,” said Stratford coach Curt Schmidt. “We haven’t quite been at the level that I’ve wanted lately defensively, but today our defense was outstanding.

“That’s a very good Marathon team. Adam (Jacobson) does a real good job with them, so to be able to come away with a win, playing really good ball and then offensively getting some timely shooting from different people.”

Warren was the only Raider in double digits with a game-high 17 points.

Bruesewitz and Daul led the Tigers with 12 each in a balanced attack that saw Ashton Wrensch with nine, Devin Ulrich with eight, Kaden Griesmer with seven and Schueller added six.

“The timely shooting really paid off for us,” concluded Schmidt. “There were a couple moments where we were just a bit dis-jointed because of some of the pressure they threw at us, but we were able to keep our composure and finish the deal.”

Tigers 56, Raiders 45

Marathon 15 30 - 45

Stratford 25 31 - 56

MARATHON (45): Jaden Koeller 2 0-0 6, Ben Robbins 2 1-2 5, Tyler Underwood 2 0-0 4, Noah Gage 1 1-2 4, Nathan Hanke 4 0-0 9, Grant Warren 7 2-3 17. FG: 18-39. FT: 4-7. 3-pointers: 5 (Koeller 2, Warren 1, Hanke 1, Gage 1). Turnovers 14. Record 21-5.

STRATFORD (56): Braeden Schueller 2 0-0 6, Ashton Wrensch 4 0-0 9, Cade Bruesewitz 4 1-1 12, Devin Ulrich 3 2-3 8, Camden Daul 4 3-4 12, Kaden Griesmer 2 2-2 7, Zack Seitz 1 0-0 2. FG: 20-46. FT: 8-10. 3-pointers: 8 (C. Bruesewitz 3, Schueller 2, Griesmer 1, Daul 1, Wrensch 1). Turnovers 15. Record 22-4.

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