By Paul Lecker For Zaleski Sports
AUBURNDALE – Stratford held Auburndale to just two made baskets during the final nine minutes of the game and pulled away for a 55-38 victory on Friday night to clinch the Marawood Conference South Division boys basketball title for the second year in a row.
Stratford remains unbeaten this season, improving to 19-0 overall and 14-0 in the Marawood South. Auburndale falls to 17-4 overall and 12-3 in the conference.
“We changed our defense a little bit, not that it was a big deal, but it knocked them out of their rhythm,” Stratford coach Curt Schmidt said. “They normally do a good job attacking the 1-3-1 (zone) and they have very good shooters so we didn’t really have to go to that. But, when you’re down, you can’t just let them pass the ball around all day either.
“The thought process was trap them at halfcourt a little bit more, put pressure on them and make them shoot quicker and not be in rhythm. They missed some shots and we were able to rebound. We took a chance and it worked out.”
The game was back-and-forth for the first 26 minutes before Stratford buckled down on defense and forged ahead.
Both teams had three-point leads early before Auburndale closed out the first half strong.
Schuyler Gilhausen hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 16, and Hunter Wright scored to spark a 10-3 run for the Apaches.
Fletcher Raab added another 3-pointer and Cooper Weinfurter drove inside for a hoop to give Auburndale a 23-19 lead going into halftime.
Stratford was just 6-for-23 from the field in the first half, but were able to turn that around over the second 18 minutes, making 13 of 26.
A rebound and basket by Ben Barten, a hoop from Vaughn Breit and a 3-pointer by Chandler Schmidt gave Stratford its first lead in nearly 10 minutes at 29-27 with 12:52 to go.
After Raab tied the game for Auburndale, Stratford went on an 18-4 run that included a 10-0 stretch over six minutes.
Wright scored for Auburndale with 9:17 to go, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 32-31, before Stratford scored 10 straight points over the next six minutes to take command.
Barten scored inside, Max Vanderhoof drilled a 3-pointer and Barten finished off the run with another basket, pushing Stratford’s lead to 42-31 with 3:43 left.
Auburndale was not able to cut it back to single digits the rest of the way.
“They played good defense the whole game and we missed some shots that we made in the first half,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “They kept slowly stretching it out. I want to give our guys credit. Last time we didn’t play well and they blew us out. We competed with them and their size just gives everybody trouble, especially us. I thought our guys did the best they could. If we could have hit a few more shots, it might have been different.”
Barten finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Dawson Danen added 11 points for Stratford. Barten's final basket with 1:40 remaining pushed him to the 1,000-point mark for his career.
Auburndale finished 15-for-42 from the field, going just 6-for-20 in the second half. Wright had 13 points and Weinfurter 12 for the Apaches.
“This is probably our first game where we’ve been really healthy as a group,” Curt Schmidt said. “We didn’t shoot well. It was a very physical game.”
Stratford hosts Edgar on Monday and wraps up its regular season Thursday at home against Wisconsin Rapids Assumption. Auburndale is off until Thursday when it plays its final regular-season game at Wausau Newman Catholic.
The WIAA postseason brackets will be announced Sunday and play begins on March 3.
Tigers 55, Apaches 38 Stratford 19 36 – 57 Auburndale 23 15 – 38 STRATFORD (55): Teddy Redman 0-5 1-4 1, Cody Miller 2-3 0-0 6, Max Vanderhoof 1-4 0-1 3, Chandler Schmidt 2-4 0-0 5, Dawson Danen 3-7 5-8 11, Tyler Lappe 0-0 0-0 0, Vaughn Breit 3-13 1-2 7, Camden Daul 0-1 0-0 0, Ben Barten 7-11 6-10 20, Nick Fox 1-1 0-0 2. FG: 19-49. FT: 13-25. 3-pointers: 4-18 (Miller 2-3, Schmidt 1-2, Vanderhoof 1-3, Daul 0-1, Barten 0-1, Breit 0-2, Danen 0-2, Redman 0-4). Rebounds: 37 (Barten 15). Turnovers: 7. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: none. Record: 19-0, 14-0 Marawood Conference South Division. AUBURNDALE (38): Hunter Wright 6-8 0-0 13, Cooper Weinfurter 4-15 2-2 12, Fletcher Raab 3-5 0-0 8, Schuyler Gilhausen 1-5 0-0 3, Cody Trowbridge 1-3 0-0 2, Cade Krings 0-0 0-0 0, Terrance Roberson 0-0 0-0 0, Jason Wilcox 0-4 0-0 0, Paul Kollross 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Paun 0-1 0-0 0, Kaden Hoffman 0-1 0-2 0. FG: 15-42. FT: 2-4. 3-pointers: 6-23 (Raab 2-4, Weinfurter 2-8, Wright 1-3, Gilhausen 1-5, Wilcox 0-3). Rebounds: 14 (Weinfurter 4). Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: none. Record: 17-4, 12-3 Marawood Conference South Division.