Polar Bears advance to regional semifinals
By Erik Buchinger
The Polar Bears scored the first 13 points and quickly pulled away in a dominating home WIAA Division II regional quarterfinal win over Waupaca 76-34 on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Sixth-seeded Hortonville overmatched the No. 11 seed Comets in the first half for a 52-13 halftime deficit.
“We set the tone early, and you worry sometimes if people read the papers and records and so forth,” Hortonville head coach Matt Hintz said. “Obviously making shots helped, but I thought we got good shots and set the tone with our defense early on.”
Hortonville senior Charlie Schabo scored all of his 17 points in the first half, and senior Ryan Krueger knocked down 15 of his 18 points prior to halftime, including a slam dunk in transition early in the game.
Polar Bears’ senior Mitch Mocadlo and junior Chandler Guyette each scored 10 points in the victory.
Hintz said Hortonville’s slow starts had been a problem earlier in the season, but that has not been an issue recently.
“The last few games I think we’ve been better,” Hintz said. “I think our pregame stuff has been better as far as getting us focused and locked in, but making shots early obviously helps.”
Waupaca’s Logan Bunge led the team with 13 points in the Comets’ season-ending loss.
Hortonville advanced to the regional semifinals where the Polar Bears will play the No. 3 seed Lakeland on the road Friday, March 3 at 7 p.m.
Lakeland earned a first-round bye to the semifinals and will enter the game with a 14-8 overall record, including 7-5 in the Great Northern Conference.
Hortonville and Lakeland matched up in the regional finals last season, and the Polar Bears came away with a 60-41 home victory.
Lakeland returns four players from that game, including 6-foot-5 junior forward Connor Evenhouse, who has averaged 19.2 points per game this season.
“It’ll be a challenge for us, especially going up there in their environment,” Hintz said. “We’re going to have to be ready to go.”
Hintz said Hortonville will need to a combination of solid defense and good shot selection to move on with a victory.
“We’ve got to guard,” Hintz said. “I think the offensive firepower that we’ve seen throughout the year gives us an opportunity to guard some people. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting the right shots too. At times I feel we play fast, partially because we’ve got some good players, but at times we don’t do it together. The more we play together, especially offensively the better off we’re going to be.”
With a win, Hortonville would advance to play either the No. 2 seed Medford or No. 7 seed Antigo in the regional final on Saturday, March 4.