Second-half run propels Cardinals to regional title
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT – The Pacelli boys’ basketball team hosted the first three rounds of regional games as the No. 2 seed.
One thing stood between the Cardinals from becoming regional champions: beating Port Edwards for a third time this season.
Pacelli separated from the Blackhawks in the second half, winning the game convincingly, 66-45, on March 4.
“It’s kind of a weight off of our shoulders,” Pacelli coach John Schurk said after the win. “I thought Port Edwards battled and they made us work for everything that we had.”
The Cardinals knew playing a team for a third time is no easy task, despite beating them twice in the regular season.
“Coming back and seeing Port (Edwards) again, it’s just tough to beat a team three times in a row,” Schurk said. “You’re nervous when you play a good team like that to see them a third time.”
Like in the first two games, the second half became the storyline of Pacelli’s victory.
Energy and physicality were at the forefront of the first half between the conference foes.
The Cardinals and Blackhawks traded buckets for most of the first half.
A 9-9 game turned to a 21-19 Pacelli lead with 2:06 left in the first half.
The Cardinals’ defense held strong by ending the half on a 5-0 run to lead 26-19 after 18 minutes of play.
Pacelli strives to be an all-around team. The Cardinals focus on every part of the game, knowing that one area is not more important than another.
“We’re just trying to have a complete all-around game. We’re not focusing on one aspect of the game or one part of the defense,” Schurk said. “We really just want to make sure that we’re swarming the entire court defensively. Offensively, we want to spread the defense as much as we can and use our athletes to attack. We preach on being complete players.”
The second half started with a 10-2 run, putting the Cardinals ahead by 15, 36-21, with 13:32 left to play.
Pacelli never looked back, ambushing Port Edwards with a quick offensive attack.
Schurk had a quick message for his players during the halftime break that sparked the second-half start.
“The message was really just, ‘be who you are,’” Schurk told his team. “We needed to make sure we stuck to what we were doing.”
The lead spread to 60-34 in favor of Pacelli, and 5:34 left on the clock.
Junior Logan Mayer and sophomores Camden Schurk and Jaydon Awe combined to score 56 of the 66 points scored.
Pacelli faces No.1-seeded Newman Catholic in the sectional semifinal game on Thursday, March 9, at Wausau West High School.
The Cardinals lost to Newman Catholic in the regional semifinal game last season.
Schurk has thoughts that it will be a fun game to play.
“It is going to be a battle. We are not going to go down without a fight,” Schurk explained. “We know how good they are but we also feel that we are a lot better this year than we were last year.”