Kenedy Van Zile drives in for a layup during a GNC girls’ basketball game against Medford Friday, Feb. 7 in Rhinelander. Van Zile reached 1,500 points for her career during a game Saturday against Stevens Point. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Cynthia Beavers attempts a game-tying basket against Stevens Point’s Leah Earnest (40) during the second half of a girls’ basketball game in Rhinelander Saturday, Feb. 8. Beavers was called for a charge on the play and fouled out of the contest.
2/11/2020 7:35:00 AM RHS girls' hoops splits with Medford, SPASH Lady Hodags can clinch GNC tonight at Lakeland
Rhinelander's run of regular season perfection during the months of January and February came to an end Saturday night, but the Lady Hodags still find themselves in the driver's seat to win a second consecutive Great Northern Conference title.
The Hodags pulled away in the second half Friday night to defeat Medford 61-46 at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium, but the team's winning streak was halted at eight straight games on Saturday. Saddled by foul trouble virtually from the opening whistle, the Hodags fell to Stevens Point 67-59 in a non-conference contest.
Rhinelander 61, Medford 46
Following a slow start, the Rhinelander defense clamped down as the Hodags pulled away for a 15-point victory over the Raiders.
Rhinelander trailed 14-11 less than four minutes into the game, but held the Raiders without a field goal over the next nine-plus minutes, using a 22-8 run to take control.
"I thought they broke our press a few times and got some easy baskets," Clark said of Medford's hot start. "I think our back row was coming up a little too aggressively and we gave up some uncontested layups."
The Hodags scored 11 straight to take control, capped off by a Rebecca Lawrence finish off a steal by Megan Brown to put Rhinelander ahead 22-14 with 8:39 remaining in the half. The lead was still seven with less than a minute to play before the break, but Beavers scored off a steal in transition and knocked down a 3 with four seconds left to give Rhinelander a 38-27 lead at the break.
"We had a nice little run toward the second part of the first half where Cynthia got some shots, Rebecca started scoring," Clark said.
Beavers had two more big pushes in the second half. She hit a 3, made a layup off a steal and dished to Lawrence on a 2-on-1 in a 7-0 run that put Rhinelander ahead 45-29 less than three minutes into the second half. Later she scored off back-to-back steals in transition to push the lead to 21 with 8:25 remaining.
Beavers finished with 18 points for Rhinelander while Lawrence and Kenedy Van Zile each had 17. Rhinelander finished the night 51% from the floor on 26 of 51 shooting.
"They just tried to take our big three out. In the first half we were a little too patient, we didn't read it very well, held the ball too long and didn't get very good movement. As the game went on, we had a couple nice actions for Kenedy for 3 and got some for Cynthia," Clark said.
Rynn Ruesch led Medford with 13 points and Marissa Fronk chipped in 11. The Raiders with 36% from the field on 14 of 39 shooting.
Stevens Point 67, Rhinelander 59
Rhinelander flirted with foul trouble Friday night against Medford. Saturday night, the Lady Hodags allowed the officials to determine the outcome of the game.
Both Van Zile and Beavers fouled out on offensive fouls in the final three minutes and SPASH scored the last eight points from the foul line to beat Rhinelander 67-59.
Fouls, and the disparity with which they were called, was a story all night. Rhinelander was whistled for 28 fouls compared to 16 for SPASH. The Panthers attempted 22 more free throws and scored 14 more points at the foul line than the Hodags.
"I think some of the fouls we made weren't real smart," Clark said. "A couple of times we fouled a kid 30 feet from the hoop, but then were just a lot of plays where it was like, boy, it didn't seem like it was going both ways."
The foul situation overshadowed big nights each of the team's brightest stars. Van Zile led Rhinelander with 30 points while SPASH's Leah Earnest, who's committed to Division-I Valparaiso, scored 31 points and pulled down 22 rebounds.
Van Zile was going for 32 and attempting to put Rhinelander ahead 61-57 when she picked up a charge and fouled out with 3:02 remaining. Beavers fouled out with 1:19 to play as she drove in on a game-tying basket attempt.
"Cynthia was arguing whether that last one was a charge or not, but you put yourself in a position where you already have four fouls and you're putting the official in a judgement call," Clark said. "We're learn from it. My big three, all season long have flirted with fouling out. They've been good enough not to, but it bit us. We talked about it in practice. We're playing with fire."
Rhinelander led the entire first half and took a 36-33 lead into halftime. The Hodags were up 47-40 with 10:50 to play but found themselves in a precarious spot. Beavers already had four fouls and Lawrence left the game for a period of time after falling awkwardly away from the play in an offensive set.
With Van Zile the only one left of Rhinelander's big 3 on the court, SPASH tied it on a 7-0 run and finally inched ahead for the first time in the game on a pair of Earnest free throws with 6:50 to play. Earnest gave SPASH the lead for good on a free throw with 2:50 left.
"She's impressive," Clark said of the Earnest, a 5-11 senior. "She's a big, strong athlete and a very good basketball player. I think she's ranked seventh or eighth in the state and it's legit. She's tough. I thought we did the best we could on her. She can elevate and hit that 3, step back, pull up and if she gets around the basket, I think her rebounding is impressive. She really can board, just so physical and great body control. She's torched us all four years, but you respect a kid like that. She's put a lot of time into her game."
Beavers finished with 18 points for Rhinelander and Lawrence, who returned to the game following her injury scare, had 10 as the Hodags shot 31.3% from the field (20-64), but made nine 3-pointers. Zoe Fink had 13 for SPASH and Shaye Solinsky added 11 as the Panthers were 43.5% (20-46) from the floor.
Van Zile's feat
With her performance on Saturday night, Van Zile reached 1,500 points for her high school career. She did it on a corner 3 with 6:40 remaining in the first half that gave Rhinelander a 28-18 lead.
Van Zile reached 1,500 exactly one year to the day after she eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier.
There is still one major milestone for Van Zile to reach as she now has 1,517 points for her career. She is now 50 points away from becoming Rhinelander High School's all-time leading scorer, regardless of gender, according to Clark. Mike Flory holds that record at 1,566 points.
"I give her credit because there are a lot of expectations for that young lady," Clark said. "Fifteen hundred (points), now she's close to breaking the all-time school record, boy or girl. Some kids might struggle with all that in her head and I think she plays better when the pressure's on and she just rises to the occasion."
Thanks to Friday night's result, Rhinelander's magic number to clinch back-to-back GNC titles shrunk to one and the Hodags will have a chance to win the conference title outright tonight at second-place Lakeland.
The Hodags edged the T-Birds 72-69 when the teams met last month in Rhinelander and Clark said he expects Lakeland's best shot tonight, knowing the T-Birds are in a do-or-die scenario.
It's a must-win for them, at their place, doubleheader," Clark said. "The beauty is when you're a good basketball team and put yourself in position to have a game like this, it's a rivalry game. (Lakeland coach) Melissa (Ouimette is) going to have her team ready. As an athlete, you want to play in these games. You want to play where there's going to be a big crowd, a lot riding on it. It will be a battle. That's a toss-up game, but we'll be ready for the challenge."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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