Waupaca’s boys’ basketball team picked up recent Eastern Valley Conference wins over Winneconne and Ripon.
The Comets handed Winneconne a 56-44 defeat Feb. 6 two days after upsetting the Tigers 57-51.
Waupaca 56, Winneconne 44
WAUPACA – Zander Neuville scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Comets over the Wolves.
Waupaca trailed 11-10 heading into the second quarter and 18-17 at halftime, but the Comets outscored Winneconne 20-11 in the third quarter and 19-15 in the fourth.
Neuville scored 21 of his points in the second half.
Nate Jenson finished with 12 for Waupaca, while Zach Horn led Winneconne with 20.
Waupaca 57, Ripon 51
WAUPACA – Six three-pointer helped the Comets avenge an earlier loss to the Tigers, who came into the game ranked eighth in the state among Division 3 teams.
“That’s big because when we have faltered against good teams, we haven’t knocked down the three,” coach Ron Weber said. “We’ve been three-of-17, two-of-14. That made them play us a little more honestly and even though we didn’t score as much inside as we have been, we made enough plays, especially in the first half.”
Waupaca outscored the Tigers 16-11 in the first half, but Ripon cut the deficit to three points – 27-24 – at halftime. Waupaca led by as many as seven points in the third quarter and a Bryce Neidert three-pointer early in the fourth quarter gave the Comets their biggest lead, 50-39.
Ripon cut the lead to four points twice in the final two minutes, but never got any closer.
“This is a really hard team to defend,” Weber said. “They’re really good between Bennett Vander Plas at 6-5 and shooting threes, the Loewe kid driving and penetrating. They’re tough to guard. I thought our guys played smart. They gave cushion to the drivers and got up on the shooters. For the most part, they did a nice job with our defensive game plan.”
Vander Plas, Luke Loewe and Sam Vander Plas scored 45 of Ripon’s 51 points. Waupaca held Riley Haas to two points.
“The kid that we shut down was Riley Haas,” Weber said. “They have four (averaging) double figures and Haas is right there. You shut down one of them and only let three score, you’re in pretty good shape.”
The game was Waupaca’s first since a 63-61 loss Jan. 31 at Fox Valley Lutheran.
“We had those vibes of that FVL game that there’s no way we should have lost,” Weber said. “We lost it in the last two minutes and the kids really responded to that loss. Believe me, I was reminding them about it. They took care of the ball against pressure. We didn’t hit of our free throws, but hit enough to keep our lead.”
Neuville led Waupaca with 16 points, while Jenson and Brando Vasquez chipped in with 12 each.
“I really put it on the shoulders of the seniors tonight,” Weber said. “This is it for them. This season is going to be over in the blink of an eye and we have a bunch of games in a row because of the cancellations and so forth.”
The game opened a home stand that also included the Winneconne game as well as contests with Berlin, Hortonville and Little Chute.
The Hortonville game, set for 7:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, is a nonconference matchup, but is just as big as an Eastern Valley Conference game, according to Weber.
“Early in the season, I looked at that and went, ‘Oh, a nonconference game later in the year,’” he said. “Maybe you look to get a little more playing time from your bench. That game’s really important for us. We’re looking at the playoff picture and it’s really scrambled. Between Antigo, Shawano, Hortonville and us, everybody’s right there with the same kind of record. Whoever makes a push down this stretch is probably going to get the No. 1 and No. 2 seed.”
Waupaca will also host Little Chute at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, in a rescheduled game.
“This is what the doctor ordered after coming off of two tough losses (to FVL and Appleton Xavier),” Weber said. “FVL really ripped our hearts out a little. You look at that and you go, ‘Wow, are we out of the conference race? Are enough teams going to upset people?’ Well, we did it tonight.”