Appleton Xavier’s Torchy Clark Gym is a tough place to play a basketball game.
That’s no surprise to Waupaca boys’ coach Ron Weber, who watched his Comets drop a 57-47 Eastern Valley Conference decision Jan. 23 on the Hawks’ home court.
“We had to play better than we did tonight,” he said. “We didn’t play up to our capabilities.”
The Comets played all but a minute of the first half without starter Nate Jenson, who picked up two early fouls.
Even with Jenson on the bench, however, the Comets led 14-12 after one quarter and trailed 25-24 at halftime.
“He’s got to play well for us,” Weber said. “We’re a way different team without Nate in there. When we have Nate and Zander (Neuville), that’s when we’re at our best.
“We survived and I was feeling good about that,” he added. “The other thing is we have to knock a few threes down, too. We have to loosen them up a little bit because teams start clamping down on Nate and Zander. Somebody has to step up big and hit some threes. We just didn’t do that consistently at all.”
Xavier outscored the Comets 14-8 in the third quarter and 18-15 over the final eight minutes to improve to 7-3 in EVC play, while Waupaca fell to 6-4 in league play.
“They’re good, no two ways about it,” Weber said. “They break you down with their three-point shooting and their movement and screening.”
Throw in a noisy home court for the Hawks and that made it that more harder for the Comets, he said.
“It’s way different practicing in quiet gym after school than coming in here,” he said. “We worked a lot on communication, especially with a team that builds its offense around screens, which is what they do. You have to be super communicators and really be loud. We got mixed up sometimes and nobody picked up the other guy, but that’s the way they make you play.”
Although the Hawks held Jenson to five points and Brando Vasquez to only seven, Neuville led all scorers with 23. Sam Burkart led the Hawks with 15 points.
“He was really good tonight,” Weber said of the Xavier sophomore. “He was physical getting to the rim, he moved really well and he slipped some screens. He’s a smart player. He and (teammate Matt) Ferris are two of the players in our league with high basketball intelligence. They really read you well and they counter it.”
Weber said he liked the way his bench played despite the Comets being down by as many as 13 points in the final seconds.
“We got two steals, a basket and a nice three-pointer,” he said. “I told them, ‘I can’t fault your effort, guys. Your want-to and your effort was there.’ We just did not well enough to stay with them.”
Waupaca’s EVC rematch with Little Chute was postponed Jan. 28 because of the weather and will be rescheduled. Waupaca will also host league-leading Ripon Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The big thing for Waupaca is to get past the loss, according to Weber.
“We’re bigger than this loss tonight, that’s what I told the guys,” he said. “Our season’s not over. We just have to play better, keep getting better and stick together.
“This team is a joy to coach right now,” he said. “They’re really into it and really together. We won’t let this dampen that competitive spirit that they’ve established.”