By Steve Pilz For Zaleski Sports
STRATFORD – If you were a basketball fan in Stratford on Tuesday night, you got to see two games.
Well, actually, two halves, but they were vastly different.
In the end, the Stratford Tigers overcame a 13-point halftime deficit and cruised to a 63-51 win over visiting Marathon in a Marawood Conference South Division boys basketball game at Stratford High School.
Both teams played man-to-man defense in the first half and the Red Raiders were hot, making five 3-pointers staking themselves to a 31-18 lead. The Red Raiders were able to double team Stratford big man Ben Barten, who was without his side kick Vaughn Breit who was still nursing a football injury and was forced to sit out.
Things were pretty status quo in the second half with Marathon leading 43-30 at the 12:16 mark, but Stratford head coach Curt Schmidt decided a little 1-3-1 zone defense was in order and it quickly paid dividends. Marathon is known for their 1-3-1, but had little luck going up against one as the Tigers began to whittle into the lead.
Less than five minutes later the lead was gone, the game tied at 45, and the Tigers were on a 17-2 run. Dawson Danen was at the top of the zone with lanky wingmen Teddy Redman and Chandler Schmidt. Barten secured the middle and point guard Max Vanderhoof patrolled the baseline. The Tigers baffled the Red Raiders time and again, forcing the visitors into 15 second-half turnovers. The Tigers had just four turnovers in the game.
“When you start your season so late,” Stratford coach Curt Schmidt said, “your playbook isn’t very deep. We haven’t had a lot of experience (with the 1-3-1). We don’t run it in practice. We were hoping they (Marathon) just might struggle with it.
“Our offense wasn’t very good tonight. We’re a little disjointed on offense.”
On a team loaded with all-conference players and experienced veterans like the aforementioned Breit, Barten, Redman and Schmidt, it was the senior Danen that sparked the Tigers on this night with a career-high 21 points, all in the second half. It was his layup off a Schmidt steal that gave the Tigers the lead and a three-pointer on the next trip that provided the dagger as the Red Raiders succumbed to what was eventually a 24-2 run and a 45-20 second half deficit.
Barten added 16 points, and Schmidt and Redman had 11 and 10. respectively.
“We always tell the kids, defense travels,” Curt Schmidt said. “If you can play defense, whether it’s man-to-man or 1-3-1, defense always travels. Our defense bailed us out.
“When we get Vaughn back, we’ll be a different team. They were able to double Barten, but it was a great team effort.”
Matt Vande Boom had 14 points to lead Marathon.
Stratford (3-0 overall and Marawood South) will play a Marawood crossover game at home against Athens on Friday. Marathon (3-2, 2-2 Marawood South) will be at Rib Lake.
Tigers 63, Red Raiders 51 Marathon 31 20 – 51 Stratford 18 45 – 63 MARATHON (51): Jaden Koeller 8, Clark Mouw 11, Kole Kaldunski 2, Matt Vande Boom 14, Mike Hahn 4, Nathan Hanke 2, Brock Warren 10. 3-pointers: 6 (Koeller 2, Vande Boom 2, Mouw 1, Warren 1). FT: 13-16. Record: 2-3, 2-2 Marawood South. STRATFORD (63): Teddy Redman 10, Max Vanderhoof 5, Chandler Schmidt 11, Dawson Danen 21, Ben Barten 16. 3-pointers: 4 (Danen 2, Schmidt 1, Redman 1). FT:17-25. Record: 3-0 overall and Marawood South.