SPASH boys extend streak at Sentry Classic
By John Kemmeter
The Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) boys basketball team finished unbeaten at the 47th Sentry Classic at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse last weekend.
The Panthers (6-3) won by double digits over Oak Creek (4-6) Friday, Dec. 28, and New Berlin West (3-9) Saturday, Dec. 29, to run its win streak at the Sentry Classic to 19 games.
“Our key for the last month has been our defensive end,” said SPASH boys basketball head coach Jon Krull. “We don’t have the firepower on the offensive end that we’ve had in the last five years, but we have enough firepower on the offensive end, and our offense gets going when our defense gets going.
“We’re able to get stops, and we buy into our defensive end,” he said. “And we’ve put on a little stretch here of some pretty good defense.”
SPASH took on Oak Creek in its Sentry Classic opener Friday night, where the Panthers trailed 20-17 with 4:10 to play in the first half, when senior guard Adam Willoughby hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the team a 23-20 lead with 3:30 left, and SPASH carried a 30-25 lead into halftime.
The Panthers opened the second half on a 9-2 run to push their lead to 39-27 with 12:26 to go, while Oak Creek got within 39-33 with 8:18 remaining.
SPASH maintained a 46-37 advantage with 4:24 to play, then outscored Oak Creek 13-6 the rest of the way to close out a 59-43 victory, as junior guard Evan Vollendorf finished with 18 points and five rebounds, senior guard Nolan Blair had 17 points and four assists, and senior guard Travis Johnson totaled seven points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in the win.
“We had great team chemistry the whole game,” said Vollendorf. “Shots kept falling and we just clicked on offense.”
“Oak Creek’s a really good team, they play in a really tough conference, a lot of athletes down in that conference, and they have a lot of firepower on that offensive end,” said Krull. “And we played two pretty halves tonight.
“Oak Creek’s been scoring 70-something a game, so to hold them in the 40s, I’m happy with our defense,” he said.
SPASH played in the finale of this year’s Sentry Classic Saturday night against New Berlin West, where the game was tight again throughout the first half, as the Panthers carried a 22-20 lead into halftime.
SPASH outscored New Berlin West 41-33 in the second half to pull away down the stretch for a 63-53 win to finish unbeaten at the Sentry Classic for the ninth year in a row, as Vollendorf totaled 24 points and five rebounds, Blair finished with 18 points and four assists, and Johnson added six points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Blair was named to the All-Classic Team along with Vollendorf, who was also the Don Friday Leading Scorer and the Warren P. Choudoir Most Outstanding Player for the Boys National Division.
“Those two are the returning guys that got minutes last year, and we’re definitely leaning on them, especially on the offensive end, to kind of get us going a little bit on the leadership part,” said Krull. “They both can score inside and outside, and when they let the game come to them and they find themselves in our offense, the shots present themselves.
“They both have been able to get in a pretty good rhythm, which is nice to see,” he said.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Panthers after a 1-3 start to the season, while they are set to play at D.C. Everest at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, and at Wausau East at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time and trying to jell in practice,” said Blair. “And it’s starting to show out there on the floor.”
“We’ve been fighting injury and illnesses, so that’s where our struggles kind of came at the beginning of the year, and kind of piecemealing our rotation a little bit,” said Krull. “And now that we’re healthy, we’re kind of hoping to get on a good run, but it all starts on our defensive end.
“And when we’re able to get stops and buy in down there, it really gets everything else going,” he said.