As far as Waupaca boys’ basketball coach Ron Weber is concerned, the Comets’ early-season Eastern Valley Conference matchup with Fox Valley Lutheran was about as close to a must-win as his team could get.
The Comets responded with a 69-49 win over the Foxes Dec. 12 to improve to 2-3 in conference play and 2-3 overall.
“This early in the year, you hate to talk about wins that are must-wins, but I think this was very close to that category,” Weber said. “We put the challenge to the kids and they accepted it. They showed me the ‘want to’ tonight. If you have that, you can do a lot. I’m hoping this really turns the corner for us and we get a nice little streak going.”
The game was the first time the Comets hit the court since a 60-33 loss at Little Chute Dec. 6 that saw the Mustangs hold Waupaca’s top to scorers – Zander Neuville and Nate Jenson – to a combined five points.
That wasn’t the case against the Foxes, however, as Neuville led all scorers with 27 points and Jenson added 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
It was evident early that Neuville was going to be a force, as he scored eight of Waupaca’s first 10 points and the Comets took a 12-9 lead into the second quarter. He and Jenson teamed up to score all 16 of the Comets’ points in the second quarter to help Waupaca build a 28-17 halftime lead.
FVL never got any closer than 11 points in the second half and trailed by as many as 21 late in the game.
The Comets hit 26 of 46 shots, including 15 of 23 in the second half, and 14 of 15 free throws, while the Foxes shot 18-of-39 for the game and hit six of nine free throws. Waupaca had a 30-13 advantage in rebounds and Brando Vasquez also finished in double figures for the Comets with 10 points.
“This is the way I envisioned this team playing,” Weber said. “We just wanted to pound them inside. We didn’t finish every one we should have, but what I really liked in the first half – and I let Nate and Zander know this – is when they missed their shot, they went back and got it. Instead of hanging their head and not reacting to adversity, like we did last Friday (at Little Chute), they even got tougher when they went back and got the offensive rebound.
“Plus, I thought the kids put the effort out on the defensive end,” he added. “That’s a tough combo to overcome. We hit a few outside shots. You put that kind of package together and we’re pretty tough to meet.”
Waupaca headed to Winneconne Dec. 17 to face the Wolves and will play at Berlin at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, before playing a pair of games Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27-28, at the Auburndale Invitational.
The Comets’ next home game is a nonconference matchup at 7;15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, with New London.