The inside game was working for the Waupaca boys’ basketball team, while New London had success with its outside game.
New London hit eight three-pointers, but it wasn’t enough, as the Bulldogs dropped a 51-41 nonconference game to the Comets Jan. 3.
The Bulldogs stayed within striking distance until the Comets hit 11 free throws and outscored the visitors 18-9 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s nonconference, but it’s really big because they’re in our playoff bracket,” coach Ron Weber said. “Now, when I go to seeding meetings, a victory over an opponent in your same bracket goes a long, long way.
“It’s comparing conferences, too,” he added. “They come from the Bay, as well as Hortonville and Shawano in our bracket, so when we can show that an Eastern Valley team beat a Bay team, it goes a long way as far as getting the seed that we’re hoping for. Later in the year, we’ll also play Hortonville, so that’s going to be another big nonconference game.”
The win was the sixth in a row for the Comets, who improved to 7-3 overall after losing three of the first four games of the season.
“I’m drilling it in their heads that we have to go inside and that’s what we’re all about right now,” Weber said. “We go inside and that’s where we’re effective. We did that in the first half and their 2-3 zone kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter. Now we have to get our shooters to step up with confidence and knock a few more threes down. Then it becomes a different ballgame because they can’t just hone in on Zander (Neuville) and Nate Jenson.”
Neuville and Jenson combined to score 37 of the Comets’ 51 points and made 15 of 19 shots.
“That’s all inside stuff and that’s what we want,” Weber said. “If it’s not a post move, it’s an offensive rebound and a putback. That’s what we’re looking for out of those two. The other bright spot was I thought we hit free throws pretty well down the stretch.”
The Comets were 12 of 16 from the free-throw line, while New London made it to the line only twice in the game.
“That was their comeback strategy, to foul us,” Weber said. “They went to it just inside of two minutes, which is a little early in my mind in a high school game, especially with the three-point shooters they have. Maybe they looked at our statistics and over the season, we’re not a good free throw-shooting team. Our guys stepped up with confidence and did a nice job there.”
The Comets led 13-8 after one quarter and 27-22 at halftime, but the Bulldogs tied the game at 27-27 early in the third quarter on a Jacob Pinch three-pointer. New London never took the lead, but trailed by a point – 33-32 – heading into the fourth quarter.
Waupaca’s final 11 points came from the free-throw line.
“We shoot better at home,” Weber said. “If they were going to hit threes, they were going to have to beat us with those. I didn’t want anything going to the rim on the drive. They’re very good at driving the ball and I thought we did a decent job. We broke down a couple of times on drives, but when we did, I thought our help was there.”
Sam Porath led New London with 11 points, while Pinch chipped in with eight.
The Comets will go after their seventh straight win at 7:15 tonight (Thursday, Jan. 9) at Freedom. Waupaca will also host Green Bay Preble at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11.
“All in all, I think our kids took our big step,” Weber said. “We’ve been talking a lot about getting to our potential. It’s been a big thing for us.”