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MEDFORD BOYS BASKETBALL - Raiders go outside the box in win; Hodags win GNC title tilt

Raiders go outside the box in win; Hodags win GNC title tilt
Medford’s Tanner Hraby and Owen Stockwell (11) battle Rhinelander’s Devon Feck for a rebound during Thursday’s 50-45 loss to the Hodags. BOB MAINHARDT/NORTHWOODS RIVER NEWS
Raiders go outside the box in win; Hodags win GNC title tilt
Medford’s Tanner Hraby and Owen Stockwell (11) battle Rhinelander’s Devon Feck for a rebound during Thursday’s 50-45 loss to the Hodags. BOB MAINHARDT/NORTHWOODS RIVER NEWS


The Antigo Red Robins completed one part of their defensive mission Tuesday in holding Medford’s Tanner Hraby to just four points in the WIAA Division 2 regional opener played at Raider Hall.

The other part of their plan, however, was hoping the rest of the Raiders didn’t steal the spotlight. But that’s exactly what they did in Medford’s 65-50 win.

Conner Klingbeil took center stage in the first half, scoring all 15 of his points to push Medford to a 30-21 halftime lead. Nick Steliga took over in the second half, scoring 20 of his career-high 26 points which included four 3-point makes.

Owen Stockwell had an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double and the rest of the crew contributed in their own ways sending the sixth-seeded Raiders (12-13) to third-seeded New Richmond (17-7) Friday in a regional semifinal rematch from a Dec. 21 non-conference game the Tigers won 105-80.

“It feels good to hit some shots,” Klingbeil said after Tuesday’s win. “First half I was feeling it. I don’t know about the second half, but Nick took over.”

“It’s just good knowing that we can all contribute and help maintain the scoring when they’re really shutting Tanner down,” Steliga said.

Just as it did in a Feb. 6 59-51 loss to Medford, Antigo employed a box-and-one defensive plan with several defenders taking their turns at face-guarding and chasing Hraby. Hraby scored the game’s first basket on an offensive rebound and got another one late in the half for his only points.

But, the senior and newly-named Great Northern Conference Player of the Year, also didn’t force the issue and the entire team pulled together to win with little drama.

Antigo, the 11-seed in the sectional bracket, finished 7-18.

“We obviously knew the box and one was coming and they do a pretty good job with it,” Medford head coach Ryan Brown said. “I thought we missed some opportunities early with slips and then we started to take care of that as the game went on. Obviously their goal was to try to take away Tanner. I’m proud of Tanner. I don’t really feel like he forced anything. He found open guys. A lot of our shots came off him making the pass.”

Klingbeil’s first 3-pointer actually came off a press break and snapped a 2-2 tie 4:40 into the contest. The first of Steliga’s six 3s made it 10-2, but the Robins went on an 11-3 run following a timeout to get within 13-12. Klingbeil’s 3 snapped that run and then he got two breakaway scores off steals, followed by a Steliga 3 and Hraby’s second basket to open up a 25-12 lead.

“We didn’t always get Tanner open, but because so much emphasis was shifted to him it got the other guys open,” Brown said. “Conner’s first half was huge for us and then Nick did exactly what we know Nick is capable of. We told them if we’re going to make a run, if things are going to get special and we’re going to have a chance, we need those other guys.”

“We’re just really screening the crap out of the guys guarding Tanner,” Steliga said of beating the box and one. “Even if he doesn’t get open, he’s getting other guys open in the process just knowing that they’re all chasing Tanner so we have other opportunities. We just need to step up and play with confidence.”

“It’s about looking for the open shots and the slips, stuff like that,” Klingbeil said.

Stockwell got a rebound bucket, Steliga got an outlet pass off a defensive rebound by Carson Carbaugh to score in transition and Hayden Koester rolled a short shot over the rim to open up a 36-21 lead 1:30 into the second half. Antigo got the next five points from Gus Schuessler, but then Steliga took over with a runner, a rebound basket and then four 3s as the Raiders stretched the lead to 52-35.

Rebound baskets were another key source of offense for Medford. The Raiders grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and scored 14 second-chance points.

“We talked all week in practice about how with a box and one there would be a lot of weak side rebounds to be had,” Steliga said. “We were really trying to focus on going after those.”

Koester finished with four points, while Carbaugh was five of six from the free throw line for his points. Logan Gubser led Medford with four assists, while Hraby had three to go with five rebounds and four steals. Carbaugh had four steals and Klingbeil had three. Stockwell blocked four shots.

Schuessler led Antigo with 19 points and was the only Red Robin in double figures.

At New Richmond Friday, Medford will see a team that hasn’t quite kept up the offensive pace it started the season at when it hit 100 twice and 91 another time, but part of that, of course, is due to the tough competition in the Big Rivers Conference, where the Tigers went 8-6. Still, Brown said Medford will have to be on top of its game defensively, rebound and, like Tuesday, hit the open shots that present themselves.

Friday’s winner will play either secondseeded River Falls (17-7) or 10th-seeded Menomonie (8-17) in Saturday’s 7 p.m. regional final, which the higher seed will host. Menomonie has a win over Medford this season, won handily at Lakeland Tuesday 60-40 and split its season series with River Falls.

The regional champion will advance to a March 7 sectional semifinal at Wausau East.

Hodags 50, Raiders 45

Much like the first game between the two teams, Thursday’s Great Northern Conference championship matchup between Medford and Rhinelander came down to a couple of possessions, and this time, the Hodags make the key shots late for a 50-45 win that gave them a share of their first GNC crown since the 2017-18 season.

Medford never led, but battled back from an ice-cold first half and a 10-point deficit early in the second to tie the game three times in the last 12:30. But Rhinelander answered each time, largely through the efforts of its All-GNC senior Will Gretzinger, who scored all 17 of his points in the final 10:10.

“We just gave them too much of a lead in the first half when we just didn’t make shots,” Brown said. “We were able to get it even but we just couldn’t quite get over the hump. Defensively I thought we were solid. Gretzinger made some tough shots.”

Rhinelander finished 10-2 in league play to share the GNC title with Mosinee, who clinched its piece of the championship by winning at Lakeland Thursday 81-65. The Raiders finished a game back at 9-3. The three teams split their games with each other. Medford’s first game of the year, a 57-53 home loss to Lakeland, wound up being a game the Raiders never quite overcame in their quest to repeat as GNC champions.

The Raiders were slow out of the starting gate, scoring just two points in the first eight minutes. They made just five of 21 shots from the field in the first half, but played well enough defensively to hang in there. They pulled within 12-8 following a Hraby 3 and a Steliga score. After the Hodags went up 18-8, Medford got five points from Klingbeil in a 6-0 run that got the deficit down to 18-14. One of the game’s key possessions was the last one of the first half when Medford, down 2115, tried to kill clock to get Hraby a final shot. But, Hodag Will Quinn got a steal and scored his only basket of the night just before the horn. Instead of possibly being within three or four, Medford was down eight at 23-15.

That deficit immediately went back to 10 when James Heck scored inside for the Hodags to start the second half, but a Carbaugh 3 finally snapped Medford out of its slump. Hraby hit back-to-back 3s for a 27-24 deficit then, after an offensive rebound by Carbaugh, Hraby got a friendly bounce on another straightaway attempt from behind the arc to tie it at 27-27.

Truman Lamers answered with a bucket and Gretzinger finally got his first score with 10:10 to go. Klingbeil came back with a triple to make it 31-30 and Hraby’s corner 3 off an inbound play tied it at 33-33 with 9:22 to play.

Gretzinger scored again, then Hraby got an offensive putback and got fouled by Lamers, who fouled out on the play, giving Hraby a chance to put Medford in front with 6:40 to play. His free throw rimmed out and Gretzinger connected from long range with 5:42 left, putting the Hodags in front for good. Hraby answered with a pull-up jumper from the left side, but Gretzinger assisted on a Devon Feck bucket. After Carbaugh’s shot in the paint rolled off the rim, Gretzinger hit the shot of the game with 4:01 left, sticking a stepback 3 over Medford’s tallest defender, Owen Stockwell, to make it 43-37. His runner moments later opened up an eightpoint lead.

Medford didn’t quit, getting a 3-pointer from Steliga and a Hraby score to get within 47-42 with 1:20 left. A Hraby 3 cut the margin to 48-45 with 20 seconds left, but Gretzinger hit two bonus throws with 18.7 seconds left to seal the deal.

Hraby scored a game-high 26 points and added five rebounds. Klingbeil was three for three from the field, including two 3s, to score 10. Steliga had five points and six boards. Carbaugh scored three points, Brayden Balciar had one and Stockwell and Hayden Koester had three rebounds each. Koester had two assists. Among their missed opportunities, Medford made three of eight free throws and had two makes wiped out on lane violations.

“We did a great job of getting ourselves back into it,” Brown said. “We defended them well. Tanner hit some huge shots for us and we had our opportunities, but you give them credit, they made shots at the end and we missed too many free throws.”

In avenging their 57-55 overtime loss to Medford on Feb. 1, Rhinelander got 13 points and six rebounds from Evan Shoeder and 10 points and five boards from Feck. Fifth-seeded Rhinelander (169) beat Hayward 65-40 in its tournament opener Tuesday and will visit fourthseeded Rice Lake in its regional semifinal Friday.

Medford’s Nick Steliga lines up an open 3-point shot, which he makes, to give the Raiders a 46-33 second-half lead in Tuesday’s 65-50 win over Antigo in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal. Steliga made six 3s while scoring a career-high 26 points. MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS