Rhinelander’s Cynthia Beavers cuts down a piece of the net at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium after the Hodags defeated Tomahawk 70-15 in a girls’ basketball game Friday, Feb. 21. The Hodags wrapped up an undefeated conference season with the win. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Sophia McGinnis attempts a shot during the first half of a Great Northern Conference girls’ basketball game against Tomahawk at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Friday, Feb. 21.
2/25/2020 7:35:00 AM Lady Hodags down Tomahawk 70-15, complete second perfect GNC season
The Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team was once again able to celebrate its Great Northern Conference championship at home in style.
Friday night's game was never in doubt as the Hodags used a 29-0 run in the first half to put Tomahawk to bed early, cruising to a 70-15 win at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
But the evening was more about the Hodags' accomplishments during a second straight regular season that saw the team go 17-5 overall and 12-0 in the GNC. Afterward, the Hodags celebrated with the conference championship trophy and cut down the net on the south end of the court.
Rhinelander has now won 28 eight straight GNC games, one behind Lakeland for the longest winning streak in conference history.
"It was a good win, good crowd and a good way to end the season," Rhinelander coach Ryan Clark said.
Tomahawk actually led 4-2 after making baskets on its first two possessions of the game, but Rhinelander put the hammer down from there, outscoring the last-place Hatchets (2-20, 0-12 Great Northern) 40-1 the remainder of the first half.
One night after becoming the all-time leading scorer in Rhinelander High School basketball history, Kenedy Van Zile reached another milestone as she pushed her career total over 1,600 points with a 26-point effort. She scored 19 of those points in the first half alone as the Hodags were lethal in transition. Rhinelander forced 32 turnovers, which the turned into 31 points. The team was also credited with 26 points in transition.
A layup by Van Zile in transition followed by a step-back 3 by Van Zile made it 9-4 with 14:26 left in the opening half as the Hodags took the lead for good. Rhinelander scored four straight transition layups to put the lead to 29-4 by the 7:50 mark of the half.
"We have the ability to turn teams over and get on a roll," Clark said. "I thought Kenedy's shot again looked good. It was a nice, balanced attack. The biggest thing is everybody was clean. Nobody got hurt and, for the most part, pretty fresh (entering playoffs)."
All four of Rhinelander's seniors - Van Zile, Cynthia Beavers, Sophia McGinnis and Lexi Morrison - got the start in their final regular season home game at the Miazga Gym. Beavers added 10 points, McGinnis hit a first half 3 and Morrison scored her first points of the season as she made five second-half free throws.
The lopsided score also meant extended minutes for Rhinelander's bench. All 13 players on the varsity roster saw playing time and 10 different Hodags scored in the game.
"The goal was to get Lexi Morrison her first start. She hit all five free throws, which was awesome," Clark said. "I wanted to get everybody to have a chance to play, just rotate through some of the starters and everyone did a nice job. Everyone had a chance to score and, defensively, I thought they played fine.
"We said, when you go out there, just fit into the system. Share the basketball, make easy plays. I thought we had some pretty good execution and movement in our 2-3. Obviously, we had a lot of success pressing them right away and we wanted to take that off relatively soon so we could get everyone more time out there."
Rebecca Lawrence added 14 points for the Hodags, who shot 52.2% (24 of 46) from the field. Emily Maki had four points to lead Tomahawk, which shot 29.2% (7 of 24) on the evening.
Up next, the Hodags will host a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal game this Friday. The Hodags will take on the winner of tonight's Merrill-Wausau East contest.
Freelancer Bob Mainhardt contributed to this report.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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