Rhinelander’s Jacksen Smith drives the lane against Stevens Point’s James Jacobs during the first half of a non-conference boys’ basketball game in Stevens Point Friday, Nov. 29. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
STEVENS POINT - The defensive woes that have plagued the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball team for more than a season hit a new low Friday night.
Stevens Point shot an even 50% from the field, led by Evan Vollendorf's 29-point effort, and routed the Hodags 89-63 at the SPASH Fieldhouse.
The 89 points are the most the Hodags have allowed in coach Derek Lemmens 10 years as head coach, surpassing the 83 points Mosinee dropped on the Hodags last February.
"We just didn't come ready," Lemmens said. "They were the aggressors offensively and defensively - sweep driving us. We can't keep guys in front. We're not in position off ball."
SPASH set the tone early for the kind of night it would be, scoring 10 points in the first 2 minutes, 20 seconds of the game - including a pair of triples by Vollendorf. The Panthers led 36-12 with 4:04 remaining in the first before taking a 43-22 lead at halftime.
The ball started going in the hole with more regularity for the Hodags in the second half, but SPASH's scoring pace did not relent. The Panthers started the second on a 10-2 run over the first 2:38 of the half and reached the 60-point mark with 11:50 remaining.
"That's a good SPASH team," Lemmens said "(Coach) Jon (Kroll)'s got them rolling really nice early on this year already."
Rhinelander was only 5 of 21 from the field in the first half. The Hodags were a more respectable 15 of 33 in the second to shoot 37% overall. Quinn Lamers hit three triples in the second half and led the team with 13 points. Ross Skeen added 11.
"In the second half we did do a better job of being a little more purposeful, a little more patient, simplicity, moving the ball and making those extra passes," Lemmens said.
But it was the defense - something Lemmens takes pride in as a disciple of former Hodag coaches Jack Bennett and Rich Fortier - that was lacking again.
Vollendorf, SPASH's standout 6-3 senior guard, was an efficient 10 of 16 from the floor. Austin Beyer added 11 points for Stevens Point and Gavin Hyer chipped in 10 as the Panthers were 31 of 62 from the field and 9 of 19 from 3-point range. Stevens Point also won the rebounding battle, 40-30.
"It's disappointing because I didn't see a lot of pride out there," Lemmens said. "That's what really hurt. We were quick to just sulk and lower our shoulders and kind of surrender."
Lemmens said he did see a bright spot in sophomore Caleb Olcikas, who scored nine points off the bench.
"Someone that was a JV guy with a varsity uniform is now a varsity guy without a JV uniform," Lemmens said of Olcikas. "There were some positives and, hopefully, that shows what we're looking for. We're just looking for guys that go out and play hard. Right now, that's something everyone of those guys can do. They've just got to choose to do it."
Rhinelander (0-2, 0-0 Great Northern) comes home this Friday to take on Northland Pines to open the Great Northern Conference season. Lemmens said a full week of practice will help his team. Because of last Wednesday's winter storm followed by the Thanksgiving holiday, the Hodags had no practice in between their Tuesday loss at Shawano and Friday night's loss at SPASH.
"We didn't get an opportunity to work on what we needed to work on," Lemmens said. "With that practice being canceled Wednesday, we were just going game-game. That's hard to do. This next week we'll really have an opportunity to work on what we do."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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