Road wins are hard to come by, especially in the Eastern Valley Conference.
The Waupaca boys’ basketball team recently picked up a pair of them, as the Comets handed Berlin a 58-25 defeat Dec. 20 three days after picking up a 63-54 win at Winneconne.
Waupaca 58, Berlin 25
BERLIN – The Comets had no trouble with the winless Indians despite missing seven of nine free throws in the game.
“It’s hard to explain,” coach Ron Weber said. “The one thing I will say is anything can happen on the road. Our most secure free-throw shooter, Zander (Neuville), couldn’t knock one down tonight. He was six-for-seven in one game, seven-for-seven in another game. Tonight, he couldn’t even hit them and he’s going to get a lot of chances because he’s so strong around the backboard and he’s going to get fouled.”
The missed opportunities at the free-throw line weren’t a factor in the game, as Waupaca led 14-5 after one quarter, 28-12 at halftime and 41-18 after three quarters.
“It was a little like sitting in a dentist’s chair getting teeth pulled or something like that, but the guys overcame any adversity with their hustle,” Weber said. “That’s encouraging because the last time we suffered big adversity was at Little Chute and we did not respond well to it. Tonight, we did.”
Neuville scored 11 of his game-high 13 points in the first half, while foul trouble kept Nate Jenson on the bench for much of the first half.
It didn’t matter because Nate Nelson came off of the bench to hit three three-pointers and finish with 11 pints. Bryce Neidert also finished in double figures with 10.
“You saw what Berlin’s strategy was and that was to just smother Zander and Nate inside,” Weber said. “That’s going to force us to kick it out and our guys have to hit some threes. Nate Nelson stepped up big tonight.”
Bryce Dretske had seven points to lead Berlin.
Weber hopes the Comets can overcome its problems at the free-throw line.
“We’ve instituted some free throw competitions and drills where they have to run if they don’t do a certain thing,” he said. “I’m hoping over the the course of a few weeks that that stuff will start to sink in and benefit us.”
Waupaca 63, Winneconne 54
WINNECONNE – The Comets didn’t have an answer for Winneconne’s Zach Horn, who led all scorers with 25 points.
Both teams scored 13 points in the first quarter, but the Comets led 28-23 at halftime and took a 41-33 lead into the final period.
Only four Comets scored in the game, but all four finished in double figures. Neuville led the way with 20 points, while Brando Vasquez, Jenson and Neidert added 18, 13 and 12, respectively.
The win was the second straight conference victory for the Comets. The streak started Dec. 12 with a win over Fox Valley Lutheran.
“This is a gigantic win after the FVL win last Thursday and then coming on the road against a very good Winneconne team with two excellent players in Horn and (Matt) Vanden Boogart,” Weber said. “We turned the ball over too often and missed too many free throws. Between the turnovers and free throws it became a game, but we made the plays at the end that we had to. All in all, a great win.”
The Comets hit only 14 of 29 free throws, but held Vanden Boogart, who came into the game averaging 18 points a contest, to six points.
Waupaca also outrebounded the Wolves 36-17.
The Comets will play a pair of games Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27-28, at the Auburndale Invitational. Waupaca will open the tournament at 6 p.m. Dec. 27 against Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, while Weyauwega-Fremont will play Auburndale at 8 p.m. Consolation and championship games are set for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively, Dec. 28.
“We know Auburndale is good every year,” Weber said. “I think they’re a perimeter-oriented team this year with some really nice guards and they’ll give us trouble. We have Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, who I am totally unfamiliar with. We’re trying to exchange some film online with them and I hope they respond because I always like to have at least one look or two.
“We have enough talent, ball-handling and inside play that I think we can adjust to things no matter what we see,” he added. “Sometimes, it has to be on the fly, which it might be. The guys are determined to be Auburndale holiday tournament champions. That’s our goal.”