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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.

Danen made two free throws, Chandler Schmidt hit a jumper, and Danen drilled a 3-pointer to give Stratford a 33-30 lead.

Fletcher Raab scored with four seconds to go in the half for Auburndale, making it 33-32 at the break.

“We had to chance some coverages to do what we wanted to do originally, but we were not doing it,” Stratford coach Curt Schmidt said. “We did that it made a big difference. We were more patient offensively in the second half and weren’t getting too rattled, and not getting out of our gaps and assignments.”

Stratford did not attempt a 3-pointer in the second half, after going just 2-for-14 in the opening 18 minutes, and it didn’t need to either.

The Tigers outscored Auburndale 18-5 during the first 11:19 of the second half to take complete control.

Ben Barten had eight points and Breit six in the run. After a basket by Dylan Paun for Auburndale, Barten scored the next seven points and the Tigers were able to finish off the win by making 8 of 11 free throws during the final 2:35.

Barten finished a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and scored 21 points, and Breit also had 21 points and a team-high 10 rebounds for Stratford, which ends the season undefeated at 24-0.

“All year long we’ve getting it inside and dominating from the paint, kicking it out for 3s,” Breit said. “We were shooting too many 3s right away. Once we made some halftime adjustments, started pounding the ball inside, we started putting some points up on the board.”

Wright finished with 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting to lead Auburndale, and Weinfurter added 13 points but was held without a field goal in the second half. Auburndale finishes the season at 20-5, with three of those losses coming at the hands of Stratford.

“I thought our defensive game plan was good, but Ben (Barten) and Vaughn (Breit) were a little better,” Auburndale coach Chad Weinfurter said. “Our kids fought really hard and we needed shots to fall. We talked about that. We hit them in the first half and didn’t in the second half. Against a really, really talented team, you have to have some of that stuff go your way.”

Tigers 66, Apaches 50 Auburndale 32 18 – 50 Stratford 33 33 – 66 AUBURNDALE (50): Cooper Weinfurter 5-16 1-2 13, Paul Kollross 0-1 0-0 0, Kaden Hoffman 1-2 0-0 3, Carl Lundgren 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter Wright 8-13 1-1 19, Fletcher Raab 2-8 0-0 5, Schuyler Gilhausen 2-5 0-0 6, Jason Wilcox 0-0 0-0 0, Cody Trowbridge 0-0 0-0 0, Terrance Cottrell-Roberson 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Paun 1-3 0-0 2, Cade Krings 1-1 0-0 2. FG: 20-49. FT: 2-3. 3-pointers: 8-24 (Wright 2-4, Gilhausen 2-5, Weinfurter 2-8, Hoffman 1-2, Raab 1-5). Rebounds: 21 (Weinfurter 5). Turnovers: 8. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: none. Record: 20-5. STRATFORD (66): Teddy Redman 0-4 2-3 2, Cody Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Kam Kopf 0-0 0-0 0, Max Vanderhoof 1-4 0-0 3, Chandler Schmidt 3-9 4-5 10, Dawson Danen 2-6 4-4 9, Tyler Lappe 0-0 0-0 0, Vaughn Breit 8-15 5-7 21, Camden Daul 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Barten 9-9 3-3 21, Nick Fox 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 23-48. FT: 18-22. 3-pointers: 2-14 (Danen 1-2, Vanderhoof 1-3, Miller 0-1, Breit 0-1, Redman 0-3, Schmidt 0-4). Rebounds: 37 (Breit 10, Schmidt 8, Barten 8). Turnovers: 8. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: none. Record: 24-0.

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