The Mercer Tigers’ basketball teams played a total of five games over the week starting on Monday, Jan. 20.
The girls lost to Mellen 59-53 on Monday, Jan. 20.
Then they came back to beat Bayfield 41-36 on Thursday, Jan. 23.
The boys lost 49-27 to Ironwood on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
Then they came back to beat Winter 69-35 on Thursday, Jan. 23.
And on Friday, Jan. 24 they lost 68-35 to Mellen.
In the first half, Mellen jumped out to a 28-20 lead. The Tigers’ leading scorer for the first half was Zoe Botes, scoring nine.
Both Ella Torkelson and Jessica Klopatek hit 3-pointers in the first half to keep them in the game.
In the second half, the Tigers continued to trim the deficit, but it was not enough. Mellen found a way to win the game.
Torkelson did hit two more 3-pointers in the second half. Not only that, but Ava Barton got hot and scored all 10 of her points in the second half.
Botes led the team with 19 points, followed by Torkelson with 14 points and Ava Barton with 10.
“We were in it with Mellen and Ironwood right till the end and we just had trouble finishing,” coach Vic Saeger said.
In a game they needed to win, the Tigers found the defense they needed to find a way to beat Bayfield, securing the season sweep.
The Tigers started fast and led by eight points. It looked like they might cruise to victory. But back came Bayfield.
“It looked like we were going to dominate and then they started to hit some threes,” Saeger said.
Even with the deficit trimmed, the Tigers led 21-14 at the half. Botes led the team again with eight first half points.
“It ended up being a back and forth game after that,” Saeger said.
It got close in the second half. Bayfield tied the game up with 3 minutes to go. Then, Jessica Klopatek hit a bucket and Torkelson made some free throws to put the Tigers up two.
Botes made a basket with under 10 seconds left to seal the win.
Bayfield did outscore the Tigers 22-20 in the second half, but it was not enough to win.
“A really close game, exciting game and we just played a really good game, fun game,” Saeger said.
Every Tiger who played contributed to the win. Botes led the team with 17 points yet again.
“Good team effort all around,” Saeger said. “All seven contributed good defense and did a lot of good things in an awesome win.”
KD Knipp, Jessica Klopatek and Molly Hohner good play may not show much in the box score, but they were big in helping the Tigers win.
“KD came in second half and played really good defense, her quickness helps on the floor,” Saeger said. “Jess and Molly’s defense and rebounding were huge.”
Up next, they hosted Solon Springs on Monday.
Then they travel to Luck tonight starting at 7 p.m.
After that, they play at South Shore on Thursday, Jan. 30 starting at 7 p.m.
Against Ironwood, the Tigers found it hard to score. At halftime they trailed 27-9.
“Tough night scoring,” coach Adam Miller said. “We need to find a way to score.”
The Tigers found a bit more scoring in the second half. They ended up scoring 18 second half points, 11 coming from leading scorer Kobe Hiller. The next highest scorer was Joe Laudolff with four points.
“We just need to shoot,” Miller said. “They have not been looking. Losing a 27-point scorer from last year is tough. We need to find a leader.”
Ironwood ended up outscoring them by just four in the second half, thanks to the Tiger defense.
“Defensively we played great,” Miller said.
The Tigers had a breakout game against Winter and they needed it in the biggest way possible. It was their first win since Dec. 12.
“Fantastic,” Miller said. “We desperately needed it. They desperately needed it. The kids deserved it.”
The game was a make-up from Jan. 17. Hiller took off and scored 39 points to lead the way for the Tigers. The 39 points came on 11/13 free throws and 14 2-pointers.
“Kobe had a breakout game,” Miller said.
By halftime, the Tigers comfortably led 31-14.
The second half was much of the same. Hiller’s scoring was balanced scoring nearly as much in the second half as he did in the first.
The other player in double figures was Ryan Losh, scoring 11 points on four field goals and three free throws.
“Ryan Losh played well,” Miller said. “Defensively, Joe Laudolff played great against their best, holding (Jordan Pasanen) to five.”
Baylie Huybrecht contributed eight points himself.
Their last game of the week happened at Mellen. They fell by double digits as Mellen showed their strength as they did in their first matchup on Dec. 10.
Mellen outscored the Tigers 29-15 in the first half, setting the tone right away. Mellen’s Luke Zakovec scored 10 first half points.
Coming off his 39-point performance, Hiller found it harder to score. Mellen set up a defense designed to stop him.
“Kobe was boxed and one all night and still had 16,” Miller said.
Hiller ended up with 16 points and three 3-pointers. Davin Peterson finished as the second leading scorer, scoring 10 points. Josh Klopatek added in five points and Ryan Losh chipped in three.
“Had it to 10 in the second half late, but got into too much foul trouble,” Miller said.
It showed the heart of the Tigers as they never gave up.
“The kids never quit,” Miller said. “They play hard all the time.”
Up next, the Tigers play tonight at Bayfield starting at 7 p.m.
Then they host Solon Springs on Friday, Jan. 31 starting at 7 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]