Senior scores 38 points in final contest
By Greg Seubert
Tony Blackwell had the hot hand for the Waupaca boys’ basketball team in its state tournament opener.
Unfortunately, the Antigo Red Robins’ hands were a little hotter.
Blackwell scored a game-high 38 points, including 29 of his team’s 32 points in the second half, but the Red Robins connected on 15 of 24 three-pointers March 1 in a 76-59 win over the Comets in a WIAA Division 1 regional quarterfinal matchup in Antigo.
Waupaca led at one point 20-10 in the first half, but the Red Robins closed on the half with a 23-7 run that included Drew Schwarz’s three at the buzzer that gave the home team a 33-27 advantage at the break.
Antigo hit eight threes in the first half alone.
“It was unbelievable, unreal,” coach Ron Weber said. “When they shoot like that, that’s the biggest thing and it’s hard to overcome. It puts extra pressure on us offensively because you know you’ve got to score. Or, if you get a look at a three, you better knock that baby down.
“It’s a little extra pressure for the shooter and we certainly didn’t hit as well as they did,” he said. “We couldn’t match them shot for shot.”
Blackwell had nine points for the Comets in the first half, but the Red Robins couldn’t stop him in the second half of what turned out to be his final high school basketball game.
His first three of the second half cut Antigo’s lead to 35-30, but the Comets never got any closer.
Matt Arndt’s three-point play and two threes helped give the Red Robins a 52-40 lead and Antigo outscored the Comets 24-19 the rest of the way. Arndt went on to lead the Red Robins with 27 points and six threes.
“When you get down in a game like this, every little mistake or thing that goes wrong becomes magnified,” Weber said. “The guys lose their body language and get down a little.”
The Red Robins hit 12 of 16 shots – including seven of nine threes – in the second half while also hitting 10 of 11 free throws.
Blackwell hit 15 of his 19 shots, including five threes.
He is one of three seniors – along with Bre’on Sease and Micah Borntrager – that the Comets will have to replace.
“You look at what Tony has brought to the program and Bre’on and Micah as well,” Weber said. “They’ve been my basketball friends and buddies for a while now. It’s always tough to see them go.”
Blackwell’s role changed during the season, according to Weber.
“He was looking to score, but he was not dissatisfied if he wasn’t getting the big numbers like he was early in the year, when he had to,” he said. “He was willing to distribute the ball and let the other guys have success because he knew that was best for the team. He knew that gave us the best chance to win. Tony had no problem with that.”
Sease added nine points for Waupaca on three threes, while Schwarz and Zach Falk finished in double figures for Antigo with 20 and 15, respectively.
“We talked in the locker room about how this team came around,” Weber said. “They really put a much better product on the court. They became more coachable, they practiced way better and I thought we became a better team as the year went on.”
Antigo improved to 15-8 with the win, while the Comets ended their season at 7-16.
“Wins are nice, but my goal is I want to see my team improve as the year goes on,” Weber said. “I want to see my team scratch, fight and claw toward their potential. If that happens, it’s been a successful year. I thought these guys made that progress as the year went on.”