New London outlasts Waupaca in back-and-forth battle
The Bulldog boys’ varsity basketball team defeated the Waupaca Comets in a WIAA Division 2 first-round regional contest Tuesday, March 3.
With the 62-57 win, New London now advances to a regional semi-final game against Shawano Friday, March 6.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs finished with a 3-13 mark in the Bay Conference this year, while the fifth-seeded Comets posted a 4-12 record in the Eastern Valley Conference.
Despite not having much success during the regular season, both teams came into the regional quarterfinal matchup determined to advance to the next round.
The Bulldogs and Comets played at a frenetic pace in the early going, and both teams were stroking shots from all over the court. Bulldog freshman Kyle Wolf was dialed in from 3-point range, hitting some big shots for New London in the early going. A vocal Comet student section howled every time Wolf touched the ball in an effort to distract him, but the noise didn’t seem to bother the young guard as he buried shots from long-range. Alex Thiemer and Sam Porath also hit some big shots from downtown during the first quarter to help the Bulldogs answer every basket Waupaca scored on the other end of the court.
By the end of the first quarter, Waupaca held an 18-17 advantage.
The fast pace continued in the second quarter as New London began to work into more offensive sets. Bulldog shooters hit some open looks as well as some contested shots from mid-range, while Waupaca cooled a bit on the offensive end. The Bulldogs outscored the Comets 20-9 in the second quarter to take a 37-27 lead into halftime.
Waupaca made several adjustments during the break and came out in the third quarter playing much better defense, limiting New London to 12 points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Comets put the ball in the hands of their star point guard, Brando Vasquez, who helped the team put up 16 points in the frame. Vasquez used his quickness off the dribble to get to the hoop for a few layups while drawing a few fouls. When Bulldog defenders didn’t play him tight enough on the perimeter, Vasquez burned them with 3-point baskets.
Waupaca had cut New London’s lead to six points by the end of the third frame.
Nick Thomas started the fourth quarter with a basket just nine seconds into the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs a 51-43 lead, but Waupaca’s Max Hansen answered with a huge 3-pointer just 28 seconds later to cut New London’s lead to five points.
Vasquez then hit a jumper in the lane to cut the lead to three, but New London’s Ty Barrington had an answer on the other end, sinking a short baseline jumper.
Waupaca then hit another 3-point shot to narrow the score to 53-51 with 5:54 left to play, but Hunter Zaddack drained a mid-range jumper to push the Bulldog lead to four points with 5:05 remaining.
A pair of free throws by Waupaca’s Anthony Blackwell cut New London’s lead to one point with 3:50 to go, and fans of both teams urged their players on with thunderous cheers.
A sense of urgency seemed to wash over the Bulldogs as their lead shrunk, but they kept their composure and continued to play team basketball. Thomas came through for his teammates with a layup that gave the Bulldogs a three-point lead with 2:18 on the clock.
The Bulldog defense clamped down on the Comets during their next possession, forcing a turnover. On the other end, Barrington drove to the hoop and was fouled while shooting. The shot didn’t fall, but Barrington made the Comets pay by sinking both of his free throw shots. This bumped New London’s lead to 59-54 with 1:58 remaining.
Waupaca answered again, as Turner Kelly drilled a shot from 15 feet, cutting New London’s lead to three points with 1:43 left to play.
Barrington then delivered the dagger for the Bulldogs, hitting a tough layup while being fouled. He made the free throw shot to push the Bulldog lead to 62-56 with 41.7 seconds on the clock.
Hansen drew a foul on the other end and made the first free throw to cut the lead to five, but he missed the second attempt. Waupaca’s defense then went to full-court pressure, forcing a Bulldog turnover, but Kelly’s 3-point shot missed the mark on the ensuing Comet possession. New London secured the rebound and ran the remaining five seconds off the clock to secure the 62-57 victory.
With the win, the Bulldogs advance to face the Shawano Hawks on Friday, March 6, in a Regional semi-final matchup. The game will be played in Shawano and is set to begin at 7 p.m.