Carmello Anthony is not listed on the Waupaca boys’ basketball team’s roster.
There was a time when coach Ron Weber wondered if the NBA superstar was on the team.
“I got guys that want to be NBA video heroes,” coach Ron Weber said after the Comets went into the locker room at halftime trailing Auburndale 26-12 Dec. 28 in the championship game of the Auburndale Invitational.
“I called them all Carmello Anthonys at halftime,” he said. “They want to shake and bake. I got guys that are handling the ball on the fast break that can’t. I got guys shooting threes off of one pass that shouldn’t be. I wondered if they were going to hang their heads and thinking, ‘Coach is saying I’m no good,’ or if they were going to take the challenge.”
Apparently, Weber’s halftime message worked, as the Comets outscored the previously unbeaten Apaches 38-17 in the second half and Waupaca went on to win the four-team tournament with a 50-43 win.
It was the second straight comeback win for the Comets, as Waupaca also overcame a 35-20 halftime deficit the previous day to post a 64-61 win over Chetek-Weyerhaeuser.
Waupaca 50, Auburndale 43
The Comets closed the third quarter with a 6-1 run and scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter.
Auburndale took a 9-4 lead into the second quarter and outscored the Comets 17-8 in the second period to build a 14-point advantage at the break.
Auburndale’s Zachariah Staats hit a basket midway through the third quarter to give the Apaches a 31-23 lead, but Waupaca scored six of the quarter’s next seven points to cut the lead to 32-30.
Waupaca took its first lead – 33-32 – on a Zander Neuville basket with 6:02 remaining. Neuville and Nate Jenson combined to score eight of the Comets’ next 11 points as Waupaca eventually built a 44-32 lead.
Auburndale didn’t score in the fourth quarter until Staats hit a free throw with 1:47 to go in the game. The Apaches were able to eventually cut the lead to six with under a minute to play, but never got any closer.
Neuville and Jenson led the Comets with 21 and 18 points, respectively, while Bryce Neidert added nine. Neuville also had 16 of the Comets’ 32 rebounds.
Blake Anderson led the Apaches with 12 points.
“I was, I hope, a corner-turning experience for us because I was very proud of our effort and our defense in the first half,” Weber said. “I was not displeased at all, but we have to learn what our roles are. We’ve got to get the ball inside. I compared it to a football team that can run the ball and gain 600 yards and comes out throws the ball 50 times. That’s what we were in the first half. I think we learned our lesson. They can’t stop Zander and Nate and then we play off of that. We’ve got to play inside-out, be patient and swing the ball. That’s what we did. It was a great win for us.”
Jenson suited up for the game after missing the first game of the tournament due to illness.
“That boy sounded like death warmed over the two mornings he called me,” Weber said. “The (first) one was to tell me he couldn’t come to practice and the other was (Friday) when he told me, ‘I can’t come to the game, coach.’
“I didn’t expect him to play that many minutes,” he added. “I kept asking my coaches, ‘Do we need to take Nate out?’ It didn’t look like it to me. It was a very courageous performance on his part tonight.”
Waupaca hit 10 of 13 free throws, while the Apaches were five of 10.
“Once the offense picked up and they saw that I wasn’t lying to them about what we have to do to be good, I think it stepped up on the defensive end,” Weber said. “Then, you start eating into that lead and they start to get more excited. This is a good team. They came in undefeated and I don’t know if anybody had even challenged them up to this point. We forced our will on them instead of the opposite and that’s what Auburndale usually does because they have such a good program. They force you to take the shots that they want you to take. We turned that totally 180 in the second half.”
Waupaca 64, C-F 61
Brando Vasquez had the hot hand for the Comets, as his scored 17 of the team’s 20 points in the first half and led all scorers with 30.
Waupaca outscored the Bulldogs 20-8 in the third quarter and 24-18 over the final eight minutes.
Neuville finished with 15 points, while Neidert added 14. Austin Niemcewicz led the Bulldogs with 23.
“What I did say at halftime was, ‘Guys, what we did in the first half has nothing at all to do with X’s and O’s, I can tell you strategies and plays, but you’ve got to come out here and get a little fire in the belly,’” Weber said. “We were so lethargic, I couldn’t believe it. Tonight, we just came out dead. All of a sudden, we’re down big-time. Brando kept us at least within shouting distance. We went from 15 down to 11 up. You talk about turning a game around. That’s what we had to do and we did it.”
The Comets improved to 6-3 with the wins and will host New London at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, before returning to Eastern Valley Conference play Thursday, Jan. 9, at Freedom.