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Stratford’s Vaughn Breit eyes the basket during the second half of the Tigers’ win over Auburndale in a WIAA Division 4 boys basketball sectional semifinal Thursday at Wausau West HIgh School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/For Zaleski Sports)

By Paul Lecker For Zaleski Sports

WAUSAU – The Stratford boys basketball team pulled away in the second half to beat rival Auburndale 66-50 in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal Thursday night at Wausau West High School.

Unfortunately, the season will end for the Tigers as well.

The WIAA announced late Thursday night that it is canceling the remainder of the state girls basketball tournament, and the boys basketball playoffs and state tournament, in response to the growing concerns of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a statement released shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, the WIAA said it regrets the lost opportunity for teams and players that have worked to achieve their goals, and the communities that have supported them throughout the year.

“I want the student-athletes and their coaches to know that your school leaders, the WIAA Executive Staff, all our committees and the Board of Control have done everything imaginable to try to provide and preserve these opportunities for you,” WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said in the statement. “However, we want and need to be responsible in helping the global and state efforts to stem the tide and spread of this virus.”

Earlier Thursday the WIAA announced that the sectional semifinal games played across the state, as well as the ongoing state girls basketball tournament in Green Bay, would be limited to 88 spectators per team, in addition to limited media availability and essential event staff.

The concerns, as has been the case across the country during the past few days, continued to mount, leading the WIAA to cancel the remainder of its basketball postseason.

Here is a game recap:

Trailing by eight with about five minutes to go in the first half, Stratford used a 16-7 run to end the first half with a one-point lead, then dominated the second half as Auburndale shot a dismal 30 percent from the floor and couldn’t consistently hold off Stratford inside.

Auburndale shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, including 5-for-12 from 3-point range, to hang with the Tigers.

Auburndale’s Hunter Wright drives inside for a basket during the first half of the Apaches’ loss to Stratford in a WIAA Division 4 boys basketball sectional semifinal Thursday at Wausau West HIgh School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/For Zaleski Sports)

Cooper Weinfurter and Hunter Wright each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the half as the Apaches built a 25-17 lead at one point before Stratford started to mount a comeback.

Vaughn Breit scored seven consecutive points to cut Auburndale’s lead to one.

Weinfurter made his second 3-pointer for the Apaches, Dawson Danen scored off a rebound for Stratford, and Wright drove inside for a hoop to push Auburndale’s lead to 30-26 before Stratford scored the next seven points and never trailed again.