Pacelli boys use second-half run to earn split at Sentry Classic
By John Kemmeter
Coming off a loss against unbeaten Stratford in its first game of the 47th Sentry Classic, the Pacelli Catholic High School boys basketball team used a second-half run to beat Amherst at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse Saturday, Dec. 29.
The Cardinals (3-7) trailed Amherst (0-9) 35-31 in the second half, when they rode the hot hand of 5-6 senior guard Trevor Frane off the bench to pull away for a 68-54 victory.
“These two games are really going to be a big builder,” said Pacelli boys basketball head coach John Schurk. “Just to show that we do have the offensive power to go out and score, and that we can compete.”
“We’ve got a good stretch of games where we can build some momentum,” said Pacelli senior guard/forward Jonah Peplinski. “Obviously our goal is conference still, so we want to get it rolling, and get that conference goal.”
The Pacelli boys opened in the final game Thursday night against Division 3 Stratford, which came in off a 52-50 win over Division 4 third-ranked and reigning Division 4 State Runner-up Marathon Dec. 20.
Jonah Peplinski hit three three-pointers and scored 11 points in the first half, and senior guard Nate Helms had 10 points, as the Cardinals went into intermission down 41-37.
However, Stratford outscored Pacelli 28-21 in the second half to come away with a 69-58 win, as Helms scored 17 points, Jonah Peplinski finished with 13 points and eight assists, and senior forward Mitch Miller totaled six points, nine rebounds, six assists and seven blocked shots in the loss.
“It was a great battle,” said Schurk. “We played so well, and in our mind we felt that we won that game to a certain extent, for what we were trying to accomplish.
“We know that Stratford’s a great team,” he said. “And the boys wanted to build off what we were doing against Stratford.”
Pacelli squared off with its former Central Wisconsin Conference-8 (CWC-8) rival Amherst in its finale Saturday night, where the Cardinals got out to a 12-4 lead six minutes into the game, and held a 17-11 advantage with 7:48 to play in the first half.
Amherst responded with a 13-3 run to take a 24-20 lead with 2:10 left in the half, and the Falcons carried a 28-23 lead into halftime.
“Every team goes on a run, and Amherst did a good job of going on their run, it just depends how we stop the run,” said Schurk. “(Our guys) had it in their minds that they wanted to finish the ballgame and close it out, and that’s what they did.
“There were no secret plays at halftime,” he said. “It was strictly just, ‘play hard and get back to our game plan and finish the game.’”
Pacelli was still down 35-31 with 13:46 to go in the second half, when Frane nailed back-to-back three-pointers to give the Cardinals a 37-35 lead.
After a layup from Jonah Peplinski put Pacelli ahead 41-39 with 10:11 left, Frane hit a three-pointer from the left corner and another one from the right wing to give the Cardinals a 47-39 lead with 7:36 to play.
“It felt great,” said Frane. “When you’re stroking it like I was out there, there’s nothing better in the world out there.”
Frane added his fifth three-pointer of the second half to give Pacelli a 55-41 lead with 4:57 remaining, as the Cardinals outscored Amherst 24-6 over a 10-minute stretch in the second half to erase a four-point deficit, as they went on to a 68-54 victory.
“The win was great,” said Schurk. “What I liked is the heart and soul of the boys to come back and hit it hard and go back to our basics and just finish the game hard.
“This was one we knew we had to have,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition between the two schools through the years, they’re a big rival, and it was pretty important for us to take this one.”
Peplinski shot 5-of-9 from three-point range and finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds as he was named to the All-Classic Team, while junior guard Mason Schlagenhaft added eight points, and Helms chipped in with six points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Meanwhile, Frane shot 5-of-7 on three-pointers and scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the comeback, as he also finished with six steals in the win and received the Mr. Hustle Award for the Boys American Division.
“That meant a lot,” said Frane. “I put a lot out on that floor, and to get the Mr. Hustle Award, (that means) a lot to me, to show that my work goes recognized.”
“Trev is always the smallest kid on the floor, but he’s got the biggest heart, and he plays so hard every practice,” said Schurk. “We’re not surprised by that, because we see that in practice with Trev, we knew eventually it would come out into a game, and it did.
“And I’m very, very happy for him, he loves the game, he’s just a good athlete, and he’s a great individual kid,” he said. “So these last two games were really good for him, and I’m proud of him.”