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MEDFORD BOYS BASKETBALL - Piece of GNC title waits to be won; Raiders stunned late Tuesday

Piece of GNC title waits to be won; Raiders stunned late Tuesday Piece of GNC title waits to be won; Raiders stunned late Tuesday


A couple of key home wins in the second half of the Great Northern Conference season got the Medford Raiders back into contention for the league’s boys basketball championship and now, with some help from the team they’re playing tonight, Thursday, they have a chance to win a trophy.

Not long after the Raiders finished off a 101-60 win over Tomahawk at Raider Hall Friday night, the Rhinelander Hodags won a 64-63 thriller in Mosinee to force a threeway tie atop the league standings amongst those three teams, who all have league records of 9-2. Medford is at Rhinelander for a 7:15 p.m. tip tonight with the winner assured of winning at least a share of the championship.

At the same time, Mosinee is at Lakeland needing a win to clinch its share of the championship. A Mosinee loss would give the outright title to the Medford/Rhinelander winner.

“It means a lot for these guys with what they’ve been through,” Medford head coach Ryan Brown said Wednesday. “We’ve had injuries and guys out and we got off to a rough start early. But we’ve improved a lot and it will be exciting to play for a championship (Thursday).”

Since starting 0-2 in conference play and 1-7 overall, the Raiders have won nine straight in the GNC, including those big home wins over Mosinee and Rhinelander and have pulled themselves up to 11-12 overall.

Brown said the team’s improvement is largely based on its defense, improved rebounding and the team’s willingness to change its approach from trying to be fast-paced to being much more patient on offense.

“That’s a credit to our players and coaches to be able to make that change,” Brown said.

Medford beat Rhinelander 57-55 in overtime on Feb. 1 in the teams’ first meeting of the season. For the most part it was a defensive-minded halfcourt battle that came down to some big shots by both teams and a late steal by Raider Carson Carbaugh that won it.

Brown is expecting the same type of game Thursday. Taking care of the basketball, getting good shots, contesting the Hodags’ shooters, rebounding and free throws all figure to be key factors. It will be the second game this week where Medford will be in a playoff type atmosphere. The first went well until the very end Tuesday in a loss at Rice Lake. Both, however, should get Medford prepared for what’s ahead when regional play begins next week.

Medford is the sixth seed in its half of the WIAA Division 2 sectional and will host GNC rival and 11th-seeded Antigo Tuesday in the regional opener. The winner earns a trip to third-seeded New Richmond (16-7), who beat Medford 10580 back on Dec. 21, in a regional semifinal on March 1.

Rice Lake 56, Medford 51

Medford did a lot of things well for 32 minutes Tuesday, but it unraveled in the last four as host Rice Lake rallied from a 14-point deficit by scoring the game’s final 19 points and beat the Raiders 56-51.

The Warriors got the perfect combination to make such a comeback by hitting three 3-point shots and getting a couple of quick baskets off turnovers. JT Schradle’s 3 got Rice Lake within 51-50 with 2:10 left. The teams traded empty possessions, then a missed bonus free throw by Medford gave Rice Lake another chance and this time, the Warriors took the lead on Zach Orr’s driving layup with 46 seconds to go.

Tanner Hraby’s 3-point try rattled in and out and Owen Stockwell’s putback rolled around the rim and off with 27 seconds left. The Warriors missed a bonus free throw opportunity with 20.3 seconds left but it was missed, giving the Raiders another shot to re-take the lead, but Hraby’s contested shot from the right side was short. The Warriors grabbed offensive rebounds on two missed bonus free throws in the last 8.8 seconds to give themselves six free throws in that time. They made four to salt it away and improve to 14-9 for the year.

“We played great,” Brown said. “I thought we were really good defensively. We jumped to the ball. We were in good position. It’s just that they got 21 points off turnovers. That kills you. Other than that and the free throws they got at the end, they really didn’t score on us. For the most part, I thought we rebounded very well.”

The Raiders grabbed their first lead at 10-7 on a Brayden Balciar 3-pointer with 12:09 left in the first half and didn’t trail again until the game’s last minute. They went from trailing 7-4 to leading 28-14 late in the first half. Hayden Koester hit a 3-pointer and got two scores from the post during the run. Tanner Hraby’s steal and score with 52 seconds left made it 30-18 at halftime.

Rice Lake’s defensive effort went up a notch to start the second half and Rice Lake pulled within 37-35 on an Orr 3 with 10:17 left, but Medford came back with a strong response that seemed like it would clinch a win. Koester again scored with a nice post move, then he drove and scored. Balciar’s 3 made it 44-35 with 8:19 left and Stockwell got a shot to roll in off a baseline assist from Nick Steliga. Hraby answered a Schradle hoop with a 3-pointer. Logan Gubser’s steal led to Hraby free throws that made it 51-37 with 4:42 left but those were Medford’s final points.

Hraby led Medford with 20 points. Koester scored 11 while going five for six from the field and Stockwell added seven. Balciar’s 3s gave him six points, Steliga scored four, Carson Carbaugh had an early bucket and Conner Klingbeil had a firsthalf free throw.

Schradle led the Warriors with 24 points, while Orr had 21.

Hraby and Carbaugh had five rebounds each. Hraby had three assists, while Klingbeil and Stockwell had two each. Statistically the game was as even as the score indicates. Rice Lake shot just a touch better from the field, 46.8% to 44.4% percent and made eight 3s compared to Medford’s 6. Both shot 20 of them. Medford was five of 10 from the free throw line, while Rice Lake was four for seven, but a couple of late misses by the Raiders loomed large. Both teams had 26 rebounds. Medford had one more turnover, 16-15 and Medford had 17 points off turnovers.

Raiders 101, Hatchets 60

It’s not often that a high school basketball team shoots 44% from the field and loses by 41, but that’s what happened to the Tomahawk Hatchets Friday on Medford’s Senior Night in a 101-60 final.

Coming in with nothing to lose at 1-20 overall and 0-10 in the Great Northern Conference, the Hatchets hung around longer than most fans expected, knocking 10 3-pointers. That equals the amount of total field goals they made in an 81-24 home loss to Medford on Jan. 9.

Ultimately, the 26-5 disparity in turnovers and the good shots Medford got in outscoring Tomahawk 50-15 with points in the paint turned the game into the blowout most anticipated.

The Raiders nearly had six double-digit scorers in the program’s highest-scoring output since the 2016-17 team scored 106 against Northland Pines. Hraby led the way with 28 points, plus he had seven assists and four rebounds. Klingbeil was four of seven from long range and scored 19 points. Stockwell had a career-high 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Balciar returned from a month-long injury absence and scored a career-high 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Carbaugh added a career-high nine points and four rebounds. Koester added nine as well.

Medford shot 47.4% from the field and made 20 of 32 free throws.

Medford never trailed but only led 3528 following a Brody Rigney 3-pointer with 4:19 left in the first half. Stockwell was left alone and hit a 3-ball from the top of the key with 3:35 left and added two free throws a minute later. Balciar scored, Steliga hit two bonus free throws and Carbaugh scored with 40 seconds left to finally open things up at 46-28.

Tomahawk’s Riley Massa got the first basket of the second half, but that was the closest the Hatchets would get. Medford made 21 of 38 field goal attempts in its 55-point second half as it steadily expanded on its lead. Freshman Blake Thorson scored four points on his first two varsity field goals of the season. His second basket, an offensive putback, put Medford at the 100-point mark with 55 seconds left.

Steliga added five points, five steals, three assists and three rebounds to the winning effort. Logan Gubser had a point, eight rebounds and three steals and Peyton Ried had the last point.

Rigney led Tomahawk with 20 points. Malachi Scheffler scored 13 and Ethan Ihn added 12.