RIB LAKE BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW - Redmen believe they’re Marawood contenders
RIB LAKE BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
The Rib Lake Redmen check a lot of boxes in what to look for in a high school basketball team.
There is experience with two seniors entering their third and fourth varsity seasons and two more who played major minutes last year. There is size and length with two of those seniors, Dominic Quednow and Donovan Sutherland and 6-5 sophomore Jed Henderson.
There is ball handling with senior guards Andrew Wudi and Jackson Blomberg and sophomore Talon Scheithauer leading the way. Blomberg emerged as a deadly shooter from 3-point range last season and others have shown that ability at times in the past as well.
“We just have to put it together,” third-year head coach Todd Henderson said Monday. “I’m looking forward to it. It should be a fun season.”
This could be a season of opportunity for Rib Lake with the race for the Marawood North appearing to be wide open after the league’s six teams graduated 16 players who earned some kind of allconference awards following last season. Plus the WIAA Division 5 sectional’s most feared team in recent years, Mc-Donell Central, is now out of the mix having moved up a division, creating a wide-open feel, at least to Rib Lake’s half of the sectional.
The journey began with a solid first week of practice that was followed by Monday’s scrimmage at Northland Lutheran. Opening night arrives this coming Tuesday when Rib Lake hosts Northland Pines at 7:15 p.m. in non-conference play. That starts a busy first week of competition. Rib Lake opens Marawood play with a crossover contest at Edgar Nov. 30 and then hosts Pittsville in a non-conference game the next night.
“It’s going well,” Henderson said. “The guys are working hard and I think there’s a lot of optimism and excitement for the season. That’s pretty typical as you start the year. Hopes are high. I think we have a good group.”
Rib Lake is coming off a 13-13 season that had the ups and downs you’d expect in a .500 season. While the season ended by getting shut down in the second half of a 66-41 regional semifinal loss at top-seeded McDonell, the regional opener, an 87-79 win at eighth-seeded Turtle Lake gave Rib Lake a boost heading into the off-season.
To get where it wants to go, Rib Lake is counting on solid play from its senior class that is highlighted by Wudi, Blomberg, Quednow and Sutherland and includes Michael Butler.
Blomberg earned second team All-Marawood North honors while leading Rib Lake in scoring a year ago at 14.1 points per game to go with 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Wudi, a member of the All-Marawood North defensive team, averaged 8.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and nearly a steal per game. Quednow earned honorable mention in the conference after getting steadily better as the season went on and finished at 7.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He had 19 big points in the Turtle Lake win. Sutherland averaged 8.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 14 games. Henderson is looking at Butler to provide hustle and defense when he gets his opportunities.
“Those guys, especially Dominic and Jackson and Donovan, they’re all about 6-2, athletic, can run and jump and finish at the hole and shoot,” Henderson said. “From our perspective, we’re hoping they can create some matchup problems for other teams having that many guys that can score. Defensively they’re quite athletic and have a little bit of length, so that’s nice.
“Andrew Wudi just does a nice job of running the offense, directing things and setting up other guys to score. He also has the ability to get to the hoop and finish. Those guys are going to be the heart of the team.”
In a program that starts the year with 22 players, there is just one junior, Brady Heiser. Three sophomores figure heavily into the varsity rotation at this early point of the season.
The first is Scheithauer, who played in all 26 games in his freshman season and got better as the year progressed, finishing at just under 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He had a 20-point game against WIAA Division 5 state champion Newman Catholic late in the year and 12 key points in the Turtle Lake win. He wound up being among the team’s better 3-point shooters, hitting nearly 36% (20 of 56).
Seth Borchardt and Jed Henderson got a taste of varsity play late in some games last year, but they’ll get a lot more minutes this year, rounding out the varsity rotation to start the year. “Talon has really come along as a 3-point shooter and he’s able to handle the ball and drive,” Todd Henderson said. “I think Seth Borchardt will also be a good shooter and can handle the ball well and finish well and Jed should add some size inside being a 6-5 sophomore. He should give us some help on defense and rebounding and even be a post presence that teams will have to factor in.” Not much figures to change in Rib Lake’s approaches to the game.
Defensively Rib Lake wants to apply some solid man-to-man pressure, but its length also gives the Redmen the ammunition to zone things up when needed.
‘We’re looking to keep improving and playing tough man-to-man defense,” coach Henderson said. “We want to be able to apply good half-court pressure and we’ll probably mix in some zone now and then depending on the matchups we have and who we face. We work on a little 1-3-1 zone at times. With some of that length with Donovan and Dominic up on top, they can provide some problems for other teams trying to work the ball around against that 1-3-1 zone. ”
With the size and length comes the expectation that Rib Lake’s defense should be aided by strong rebounding. That rebounding could also lead to secondchance points on offense. With Wudi being the quarterback for the fourth straight year, the offense will again look to push the pace when it can.
“These guys like to get out and run the court and take advantage of those things when possible,” Henderson said. “But in our half-court sets I think we’ll be aggressive while looking to score. I think the big thing is just having to limit turnovers and making sure we’re smart with the ball. Hopefully we can play fast but not be in a hurry. That will be the thing to work on.”
Henderson is interested to see how the half-court offense evolves with its combination of inside size and, hopefully, outside shooting. Rib Lake shot 30% from 3-point range last year and 60% from the free throw line, numbers the Redmen certainly would like to improve.
“Andrew Wudi has really been working on his shot,” Henderson said. “I think our 3-point shooters, Jackson and Talon and Dominic, are all good 3-point shooters. I think Seth Borchardt also is one. He’s really improved in the last year or two. He’s really worked on his shot. I think we’ll have a decent amount of 3-point shooters. I think just having Jed as a 6-5 post presence hopefully can open things up if the 3-point shooters are on or, vice versa, with him inside, defenses can’t just cheat to the outside. They’ll have to pay attention to the inside post play too. Hopefully that’s a good balance for us.”
Rib Lake went 6-10 overall in the Marawood last year, good for a third-place tie in the North with Chequamegon. Those teams were one game behind Prentice and four behind Athens. Rib Lake was 6-4 against North teams but, like most North teams, the Redmen struggled in the crossovers with the South Division, losing all six. A couple crossover wins this year could be the difference in winning a North title, something Rib Lake hasn’t done since 2019-20.
“Athens is the defending champion and until someone dethrones them, they’ve won the conference the last couple of years so you have to respect that,” Henderson said. “They always play good defense and are tough to score against. That’s what keeps them in ball games even when their offense struggles off and on.
“We’ll see,” he added. “We hope to be up there contending for it. I think our guys are motivated to kind of represent the Marawood North against the South a little stronger this year and see how that goes.”