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How Long Have I Been Here??

How Long Have I Been Here?? How Long Have I Been Here??

After Medford competed in the WIAA state gymnastics meet March 6-7, one Taylor County team remained in the 2019-20 winter season.

The Rib Lake boys basketball team kept rolling on the night of March 7 dominating –– except for a brief, tense second-half moment –– host Wild Rose in a WIAA Division 5 regional final. The deep tournament run by the 21-4 Redmen was just part of a busy sports week locally, regionally and nationwide with basketball leading the way, but things like the National Hockey League’s stretch run and the start of Major League Baseball and high school track and softball seasons were on sports fans’ minds too.

Here, excitement built in advance of the March 12 sectional semifinal against Pittsville at D.C. Everest. The half-bracket’s third and fourth seeds and former Marawood rivals had knocked out the Central Wisconsin South’s top two teams in the regional finals. The winner on semifinal Thursday would’ve held favorite status in most observers’ eyes going into the March 14 sectional final at Pulaski.

But murmurs of a growing concern about the coronavirus grew louder as the week progressed. As of Wednesday, everything for the girls state tournament and boys sectionals was status quo. As Wednesday turned to Thursday, everything changed.

The NBA put its season on hold when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz became its first player to test positive. College basketball conference tournaments went from being on, to being fan-free, to being canceled. Wisconsin’s hoops tournaments turned into limited-spectator and essential-personnel events.

The challenge that day for players on both sides became tuning out the outside noise.

“As soon as I got that news, we have a group chat and I texted the guys and told them, ‘you have to put all this aside, don’t stress about it. You let the rest work itself out and focus on the game,’” Rib Lake head coach Carrie Ewan said.

The Redmen couldn’t have done it much better in a surreal environment. The 88 somewhat socially-distance fans from each side made noise, but with no bands and only one side of bleachers pulled out, the fieldhouse felt empty.

Rib Lake took a 7-5 lead on a Levi Ewan steal and subsequent assist to Steven Petkau and never trailed again. The Redmen dismantled Pittsville’s 2-3 zone, getting open shots seemingly at will, turned the Panthers over and got some key buckets in transition and limited the touches for Pittsville’s all-state forward Matthew Kissner.

The knockout punch of the first half was delivered by Levi Ewan. After the Redmen patiently ran the last minute-plus off the clock, he nearly stumbled on his final approach, but he regained his balance and drained a 3-pointer from well behind the arc to give Rib Lake a 36-22 lead.

The Panthers changed up their defense in the second half, starting in a 1-2-2 zone, but Rib Lake continued to pass through it, freeing up their top post player Nick Gerstberger for six points as the lead grew to 48-31.

Pittsville made a run, pulling within 48-40 with 6:45 left, but Gerstberger rebounded a Kissner miss and the ball found its way to Devyn Vlach, who calmly drilled a left-wing triple with 5:34 left. Ball game.

“They made a run on us,” Carrie Ewan said. “We had a couple of miscues and we go down the court and (Vlach) answers. It was a great feeling.”

After Rib Lake’s 61-45 win, word spread that Wabeno-Laona had sprung a mild upset on Wausaukee in the other semifinal. The Redmen knew they were sitting in a good position to earn the program’s first state berth since 1986.

But news also spread just before tip time that the University of Wisconsin was not going to allow the following week’s state tournament to take place at the Kohl Center. When social media posts emerged that the WIAA Board of Control had called an emergency meeting for late that night, the next step was inevitable. Just after 11 p.m., as sectional teams were getting home, the rest of the tournament was canceled. The next afternoon, Gov. Tony Evers announced a statewide school closure. never reopened, the spring sports season never started and here we are in late August, with schools finally getting fall started and others postponing fall to spring and crossing their fingers they can get winter sports started in November. With Medford’s girls tennis at Lakeland Tuesday and today’s tennis meet and cross scrimmage in Medford, prep sports competitions in Taylor are back. We wish everyone involved the best of luck in the most unique school year we’ll likely experience. Thanks for reading the Shutdown Snapshots and all the positive feedback the last five months!

Shutdown Snapshots... Where We Left Off

Having been at The Star News for 22 years, there are probably more great games that I’ve actually forgotten than I remember. During this COVID-19 crisis, I’ll look back on some of those moments that, to me, will always stand out.

by Matt Frey, Sports Editor

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said whatever happens with the corona stuff, all the fans, just keep focusing on the game and don’t let it affect how you play.”

Page layout by Sarah Komarek.

Game date: Thursday, March 12, 2020 Who: Pittsville vs. Rib Lake Where: D.C. Everest Fieldhouse What: WIAA Division 5 Boys Basketball Sectional Semifinal Final score: Rib Lake 61, Pittsville 45

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