Stratford dominates the regional
Tigers win their second straight regional crown
There’s a blank space that greets the Stratford Tigers boys basketball team every time they take the court. It stares them in the face each time they practice or play a game. It dares them to achieve great things.
For all of Stratford’s many achievements - state titles in wrestling, football, baseball and track - the Tigers have yet to reach the state tournament in basketball. That could all change this year.
Stratford came close the year before, falling in the D-3 sectional semifinal to Wisconsin Dells. It’s a game they revisit over and over for motivation.
“We sure haven’t forgotten about it,” Tigers starting guard Max Vanderhoof says after Stratford throttled the Neills- ville Warriors on Saturday in the WIAA D-4 regional championship. “We’ve been watching that game ever since playoffs started to remind us what happened.”
The Tigers improved to 23-0 after they dismantled the Cloverbelt Conference champs 71-36 in front of an energetic home crowd.
The Warriors, ranked as high as eighth in D-4 this year, were made to look like a JV team as Stratford shut down leading scorers Alex King and Braden Trunkel. Not that it was by any means an easy feat to accomplish. Far from it.
“People only see the games that we play,” Ben Barten says. “They don’t see all the work that goes into this. It’s a lot different than what you see on the court.”
The Warriors had no answers for Stratford’s Vaughn Breit and Ben Barten. Breit pumped in 17 points and Barten scored 15. Chandler Schmidt dropped in another 15, and Teddy Redman added 11 as Stratford took a 36-20 lead at the break.
The Tigers dropped in 35 more points and held the Warriors to just 16 points in the last stanza.
With the victory, the Tigers return to the sectional semifinal for a second straight year, where they will face a familiar opponent in conference rival Auburndale.
Win that and one games separates Stratford from the Kohl Center.
“We want that gold ball,” says Redman. “We want to get down to the Kohl Center for the first time. The regular season was fun, and having good games, but this is the real deal.”
Tigers shoot down ‘Cards
The Tigers opened their postseason with a 66-40 defeat of the Pacelli Cardinals on Friday in the WIAA D-4 regional semifinals.
Stratford raced out to an early 41-13 lead and never looked back as Vaughn Breit led all players with 15 points. Max Vanderhoof and Dawsen Danen scored 12 apiece as most of the Tigers sat out for the entire second half.